Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What Makes A Good Hashtag?

It was  Friday night and I was on the lounge watching the cricket. I had moved from Tooheys Old to red wine and was regularly picking up my iPhone to check what people were up to on Twitter and Facebook.

I saw a tweet from @SeanCallanan, of Sports Geek with the hashtag #madeupbaseballfact. Sean was retweeting some of the made up baseball facts that people were tweeting. They were pretty funny.

SportsGeekStrategy_017-001 I Just Came Up With It

“I just came up with the idea to generate some connection” Sean says. “The next night, @SportzfanRadio were calling the final game of the Melbourne Aces for the season. Baseball commentary is all about statistics & telling great stories while the action continues out of the diamond. So I thought that a fun way to get people involved would be for them to tweet made up baseball facts that we could use during the broadcast.” Sean also used the Sports Geek blog to promote it here.

Making Stuff Up

I started following the hashtag and even though I don’t know much about or follow baseball I decided to participate. I figured I was as good as making stuff up as anyone else. I mean, I once told someone, after they told me they didn’t have a middle name, that the reason they didn’t have a middle name was because their parents were poor. “What?” they asked. “Yeah, they were poor. You see, it costs $10 a letter on your birth certificate for your name and your parents obviously couldn’t afford it”. They believed me. I still feel a little bad. Just a little.


So I tweeted …

@SeanCallanan it used 2 b a baseball rhombus but was revised to a diamond cause groundsmen didn't know WTF a rhombus was #madeupbaseballfact
@SeanCallanan #madeupbaseballfact Jesus Christ, pitching 4 Jerusalem, pitched the perfect game 10 times in a row #devineinterventionscandal

Apart from my own comic genius tweets, there were a few crackers but this was one of my favs,

@downesy Prior to the advent of the "cup", a batter was awarded 1st base only if struck in the testicles. Hence "a base on balls" #madeupbaseballfact
The Power of the Hashtag

One of Sean’s favourite tweets was @adamajacoby: 7th inning stretch introduced in 1959 to give fans an opportunity to move car and avoid parking fines #madeupbaseballfact

What struck me was the power of the hashtag to get someone to join in when they weren’t really part of the baseball community. Normally when I see a hashtag it is simply about being able to follow a conversation rather than generate one. In fact, often I see them in a tweet and have no idea what they are referencing.

madeupbasballfact Successful or Not?

“It was definitely successful” Sean says. “I wasn’t really sure how it would go. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. I didn’t have any real expectations but we ended up getting 134 tweets using the hash tag on the night. That gave us a reach of about 30 000 to 40 000 people. About 20 of those Tweets reached over 20 000 people. Interestingly, the radio station that we were broadcasting for, 88.3 Southern FM, had an increase in listeners on the Saturday night of about 1000%”

“The hashtag also started trending in Melbourne and then after a couple of hour it eventually started trending in Australia. So I think all in all it was successful” Sean added.

How to use Hashtags more Effectively

So, should we be using hashtags more often for more than just merely tagging a conversation or to simply track how often we have something retweeted? I figured that if a hashtag like this one could get me engaged then surely it would be even easier for those communities/topics/brands that I was actually interested in to get me involved.

My advice would to use a hashtag like the old blog tip “finish with a question” so as to invite people to join in. Sure it might not be a question but don’t make it a meaningless hashtag unless you simply want to track tweets. It should start a conversation where people feel compelled to add to it. Something that seems like a question or an invitation will do the trick perfectly.

Further Hashtag Education

If you want another great example of a hashtag people feel they can just join in with and contribute content, as opposed to just using it to organise tweets, then check out the post What Makes a Good Hashtag? It’s Not Science by Mathew Ingram over at GigaOM  which looks at the hashtag #lessambitiousfilms

More on Sports Geek

Sean was a great sport (pardon the pun) in giving me some time on the phone to pester him about the hashtag exercise so be sure to check out all the cool stuff he is doing at Sport Geek and follow them on

  • @SeanCallanan – want to talk sports & tech with Sean then follow here.
  • @SportsGeekHQ – the company account – news, blog posts, articles.
  • @SportzfanRadio – weekly radio show Sean appears on follow for show reminders and in-show tweets

More madeupbaseballfact#

made up baseball fact all tweets


Sean Callanan - Sports Geek said...

Thanks for the blog post Daniel, good work. Here's hoping that future hashtag work by Sports Geek on SportsGeek.com.au & @SportzfanRadio crew are just as successful.