Event Marketing 101: The Hashtag


Hashtag + Conference = Twitter engagement


When it comes to marketing live events via social there is no more powerful tool than Twitter. It’s ability to aggregate real time interaction and convert digital connections into real physical ones is second to none. Facebook, being a closed community, can’t do it. Google Plus, for now, is not the ideal place for these types of interactions. LinkedIn isn’t there yet either.

The glue that holds people, their media and the activity of a live event is the hashtag. You know – the # sign followed by word, phrase, numbers, characters or any combination of.  Hashtags are used for more than just live events though. They can be used for movements, causes, organizations, ideas, locations and all kinds of things. #ArabSpring was used to bring about political change. #DWTS is used to aggregate viewers of the TV show Dancing With The Stars, #LiveStrong for those supporting a cause, #Volunteer for those passionate about volunteering and #BHAM is the prevailing hashtag for the City of Birmingham, Alabama.

Hashtags are also used to clump comical or trivial posts as well. While the Catholic Church worked internally to select a new Pope, many people on Twitter are playing a game entitled #ReplaceMovieTitlesWithPope. No explanation necessary.



Some people use hashtags as a commentary on what they’re posting. While there is no practical use for this use of hashtags people somehow think they’re providing insight into what they’re really thinking. While others seem to think turning all kinds of words into hashtags will have an impact the end result is minimal.


What is your goal today? How are you going to reach it? #plan #achieve


The Power Of Consistency

When events are annual and attract a loyal following the shelf life of the event hashtag can extend beyond the actual event.  South by Southwest, Austin’s mega interactive event, has an ongoing conversation year round with #sxsw, or is it #sxswi? Knoxville, home to Social Slam – a one day social media conference that attracts some of the best and brightest minds in the space has maintained the hashtag #soslam.

What makes it so easy to follow along is when the hashtag stays the same. While it may make sense to some if Social Slam were to use #soslam13 to denote this year’s event, it would water down its effectiveness because every year it would change. If I wanted to reference something from last year’s event and used #soslam12 chances are people tracking the the upcoming event would only be following #soslam13. Maintaining consistency regardless of the year codifies the hashtag for past, present and future use.


Hashtag Confusion

Want to cause confusion among vendors, speakers and attendees? Change the event hashtag annually. That’s exactly what has happened with the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce’s annual Small Business Expo. In 2011 the designated hashtag was #CHAexpo. The following year, 2012, my firm was tapped to provide social media services for the event. We were told the hashtag  would be #EXPOchatt. We had anticipated building on last year’s momentum, but materials were being printed with the new version so we reticently adopted it.

Enter the 2013 event and the “official” hashtag has been changed again to #EXPOcha.


No. It’s not a massive problem. It doesn’t make the event worse. It isn’t detrimental to the success of the event, but it does dilute the power of Twitter, but it does inadvertently isolate some from the aggregated conversation. It can cause temporary confusion as well.




And it doesn’t help when members of the Chamber are using the wrong hashtag too.


Not sure what happened here. Maybe they figure if they’ll reach different people by using both



Bottom Line

Pick one. Print it on your printed material. Include it in email communiques with brief explanation of how to use it. Use it early and often online. Encourage others to use it. Oh, and keep it simple. Hashtags with 20+ characters eat into valuable tweet space which means less space to talk about the event.