A couple weeks ago I asked to do a quick reminder at a meeting about using twitter as a means of back channel learning -- staying on top of trends and topics at conferences even when you can't physically be there (for whatever reason). When I've presented "If I Only Knew X" as well as that meeting, there are questions about hash tags.
Hash tags are simply a type of tag, or key words, used to identify relevant content. In the twittersphere, a pound sign (aka an "octothortype") is used before an alphanumeric string of characters that identifies that twitter update as relating to that topic. Which is why we just say "hash tag" instead.
The beauty of hash tags is anyone can create them. The bête noire of hash tags is that anyone can create them. Some are really obvious, and others, not so much. And like many acerbs on twitter, I've been known to make a smarmy hashtag as a punch line, such as #justsayin, and no one owns a hashtag so there's a bit of sleuthing required to find the relevant ones. They're a lot like buzzwords, they come and grow, and become popular and fade into obscurity based on who uses them.
Conference speakers often share links to their presentations, and vendors often share other resources, which make them valuable for attendees and others. Savvy types know to make them short, and relatively unique, especially conferences. #SXSWedu is a great example, because "SXSW" isn't a common character string in words, and the "edu" prefix filters out generic SXSW related tweets, of which there will be millions in the next two months, pre- and post-SXSW, with it's Music, Film, Interactive, and Edu conference and satellite events. And trust me, just using SXSW as a search string to find information is going be useless.
Two recent events along with #SXSWedu are of particular interest to learning and development professionals who are on twitter; #ASTDTK13 (ASTD TechKnowledge Conference) and #TCEA13 (Texas Computer Education Association). They're really easy to find on twitter. Notice how they added the year at the end of those hashtags? That makes a huge difference; just knowing the acronym for an event may still not be enough; notice the results you get if you were trying to find ICC events just by using "ICC" in the two examples below:
On the other hand the Intelligent Content Conference has had some great tips, and #ICC2013 is currently a useful hashtag, but can be confusing, since there's more than one "ICC" (such as the International Cricket Council and the International Criminal Court just to name two). If you looked for #ICC right now, you'd see a lot of results about Kenya. If you do a search on #ICC2013, you'll see quite a few of the relevant tweets, along with some other hashtags of use.
So when you make hashtags, think about brevity, relevance, and uniqueness.
David Kelly even went so far as to create a Twitter for Learning Professionals Resources at #astdtk13
page. I didn't attend #ASTDTK13, but because I was following the
hashtag, I know have some great resources at my fingertips.
I created on learning & development related events
including relevant conferences. By checking out that list, you can see what other relevant hashtags are in use. You can also see the one page handout
from Austin ASTD Career Transitions on 28 January 2013.