A #hashtag As A Platform

I spoke at WOM UK (Word of Mouth UK Association) last Thursday about Like Minds and how Spreadability is beating Reach (you can see the slides here on slideshare.net), and one of the things that I spoke on was how the Like Minds platform is the #likeminds hashtag.

Today I’d like to just discuss a few thoughts on #hashtags as platforms, as well as point to what I think are the issues that we face with this.

Statistically, let me just point out the trend that I’m sure most of you are experiencing:

  1. More is said about you on Social Networks than on your blog comments
  2. Twitter is your main traffic source above Google
  3. Your #hashtag has more users than Twitter followers, RSS subscribers and unique visitors.

This for me means:

  1. A home base is important, but people are talking more about you than they are with you (Conversation With vs Conversation About)
  2. This means people are using the tools they already have, in the social spaces they already occupy, to discuss you
  3. This means a platform must be light touch (especially as passports are becoming more common)

The Solution: #Hashtag as a Platform

In my model on The 6 Social Media Presences, I say that the Platform Presence is useful because it gathers. Previously we have thought of Platforms as a place where we must sign up, get connected, engage, comment, etc – essentially all acts that require us to come. But I believe that we are entering an age where platforms are of such a light touch that they automatically gather, rather than requiring us to gather ourselves.

When we think about a hashtag, it uses the tools and social spaces that I currently inhabit, with the simplicity of a typed word, to gather me with like minded individuals, who I can simply track using the tools I already have in the spaces that I already inhabit.

What Do You Think The Repercussions Are?

When I think about Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups, I consider most of them to be very static, with people only ever leaving one or two messages on the walls and then leaving them as badges on their profile. This model of a platform is antiquated.

The new #hashtag platform is dynamic, constantly updating, completely user generated, and truly social. It doesn’t require months to build up forum stars. it doesn’t require a page that must be visited (like Facebook). Instead, it can used immediately, and sits as a search in our client.

Let me hear from you – I’m sure you can expand this idea:

  1. What other benefits are there?
  2. Is there a more powerful, yet as simple to use platform out there?
  3. How much can the #hashtag scale, given that already some #hashtags are very noisy?

Photo courtesy of the wonderful Britt_W

Archived Comments

  • gamepeopleeditor

    Is it a problem if you create a platform around a hashtag, then another group starts to dominate the tag you have created? Is that a problem? Does that mean you need to brand in your hashtag?

    Thanks Scott.

  • / Scott Gould

    Very good point. This for me runs to Guidance vs Governance.

    If you want to Govern your platform, you can’t make it a hashtag, as no one owns it.

    If you Guide your platform, then you use leadership to rally people around it.

    Example:
    – if someone uses the #likeminds hashtag to self promote for instance, the community self-moderate
    – if I want to push something new through the platform, then the community follow me becasue I’m the leader and they respect me

    If another group can dominate your hashtag, then you have two things:
    1. you are a weaker group and won’t win
    2. you should’ve maybe picked a niche hashtag

    #likeminds, for instane, just wasnt’ being used before we used it, and it’s not a common phrase, like #socialmedia is for example

  • nicktadd

    A hashtag as a social network is a good thing – but then so is choice, and some people prefer to not choose twitter. The idea is sound, but the platform may put people off.

    N

  • / Scott Gould

    True – good point. But then people who aren’t techie are not likely to use Ning either.

    What this says to me is that we should have cross-platform hashtags… like Scoble says in this: http://scobleizer.com/2010/03/27/the-seven-need…

  • nicktadd

    OK so choice rules and the common denominator maybe Hashtag – but will it be effective if the participant is not a “curator” in the real time world?

    What Robert is saying makes ref to “real time” and the collective of. However, hashtag as a sole platform still “knocks out” places where some people like to “hang out”.

    Don’t get me wrong I like the hashtag as I like building community, to date experience has told me (albeit my limited experience) that not all the web community extends the view.

    I’m digging the debate though.

    N

  • / Scott Gould

    “OK so choice rules and the common denominator maybe Hashtag – but will it be effective if the participant is not a “curator” in the real time world?”

    – same can be said on any sign-on social networks, forums, platforms, etc

    The benefit of a hashtag – if it can go across Facebook and Twitter – is it links larger “scapes” or “networks” together into a more transient and organic platform.

    Still this is hard for many people to get into – but seeing as Facebook is where most people are, I see this as a viable option as the hashtag works on Facebook

  • nicktadd

    I get that Scott and the hashtag is the common denominator and that”s good, but the original question was “Why have your own Social Network when you can use a hashtag as a platform?”

    If facebook is where most people are comfortable (which they appear to be) then that’s their platform a few people will get the “linkage” in the hashtag and adopt another “platform” but the answer to the original question is people seem to like owning their own space with their individual choices.

    They are curators of their platforms and their community.

  • / Scott Gould

    True – good point.

    So what do you think the future is for NEW platforms. SHould they create a SOcial Network, or adopt a lighter touch?

  • jonged

    My Thoughts : How much of a potential market do you miss by using say only hashtag ready online projects?

    Domination is all well and good, but in an industry that you coin works around “conversation”: how much conversation are you missing?

    J

  • nicktadd

    Sorry Scott could you elaborate.

    N

  • / Scott Gould

    So If I wanted to start a new platform / community – would you advise I build it with a light touch #hashtag, or customised social networking sites like Bing?

  • nicktadd

    OK sorry got that now.

    Either.

    But is a #hashtag lighter if so why. Vanessa and I have built a community on a free platform (which is now having a custom one built), but I don’t recall that being a “heavy touch” if that is the right comparison.

    If you mean using the #hastag to gain “traction” as the outset of community building then yes that’s not a bad start – after-all twitter can be “a canary in a coalmine”. But then it’s also not a bad start to “hang out” on other social networks – if your “call to action” is to build a community then either are recommended.

    N

  • / Scott Gould

    Totally – you guys have an awesome platform and an very strong audience. I wonder though, for those starting communities now, how they will get enough attention to pull people to a bespoke location.

    I think a large part is tied into the desire outcomes. LIke Minds is chatter around an event – whereas 4walls is buying property – so I think a hashtag serves LIke Minds, but a more custom platform suits 4walls.

    You agree?

  • nicktadd

    Hhmm, could be – in fact bang on I would say. May I extend the compliment, having #likeminds permanently placed on my seesmic, allows me to monitor and get into the chatter.

    So what we’re saying here is depending on the desired outcome, may dictate “platform” whether that might be #hashtag or specific social network.

    Having said that, in reality there are no boarders or rules.

    N

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey – yes I think this is a better development – linking a platform to your desired results.

    I think I can see a model here!

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Jonny

    The point is that a hashtag can go across all social spheres – where as a bespoke social network does not.

    If I see anyone use “#likeminds” anywhere, then thats’ the platform – no matter what platform it’s on.

    I think our tools need to become more like this. Check out: http://scobleizer.com/2010/03/27/the-seven-need…

  • jonged

    Scott,

    “When I think about Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups, I consider most of them to be very static, with people only ever leaving one or two messages on the walls and then leaving them as badges on their profile…”

    Could this simply because people perhaps don’t want to engage on a large scale with a brand? For example:

    Johnny to VIRGIN MOBILE: You guys have given me the best connection ever! I’m so happy! Woop! Please add me to a mailing list! xoxo – Its probably fair to say that to any of the non-tech savvy friends who I know will think I’m a complete nut, even if they have been involved in say Twitter or something similar. Perhaps someone might engage once or twice on a Facebook Page/Group/Social Network . I was reading an article the other day about the rentention rate of Twitter being roughly 40% suggesting that you could be having a conversation with a completely valid engager, but what happens when they leave?

    Does one dismiss the conversation because the user is simply not online? How would you even know who that person is away from their social network nickname? Can there opinion be counted towards anyother than a metaphorical telephone conversation using a different medium?

    For every post left slating or even praising a brand, I wonder how many use either traditional methods of E-Mail or even (I hope not) telephone. I would imagine the former traditional method completely outweighs online generated buzz and its effects.

    I guess it could be me, but if I start seeing loads of interaction between a friend and a brand on any Social Network I generally think its slightly phoney?
    Do you not believe that the same could be applied to a “hashtag”, yet without the badge on profile bit? Again, a personal preference is “Interact when Necessary, Not all the time”.

    Interestingly the other day I hashtagged a large clothing retailer (bit skint, want a new pair of shoes on the cheap like!) in a way naively hoping for at the very least a company representative to send me ‘Deffo buy these shoes and perhaps a cheeky discount code or something

    ;)
    ” Instead I was “followed” by a bunch of strange fashion type bots and essentially just spammed….

    How would you protect a Hashtag from OTT abuse?

    It’s getting too late for this kind of talk! I’m starting to go around in circles in my head…!

    Take Care

  • nicktadd

    Cool, well given that our property forum is just having a re-vamp I’m going to bring all the platforms to bear – I’ll keep all informed.

    With interest I’m using SM2 from Alterian so I should be able provide some good data sets.

    N

  • / Scott Gould

    Look forward to hearing about it!

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey

    1. Yes – most people don’t want to have Conversation WITH a brand, they want to have a Conversation ABOUT a brand.

    So you’re example with Virgin – it’s not likely to happen. But Virgin should be monitoring that keyword and engaging people who mention it – if the need is there.

    2. Hashtags are not badges like Facebook pages are. A hashtag is used on a tweet once. Consistent use requires consistent engagement, else it fades and you have no idea it is there.

    It is not “opt-in”, it is “always-opt”.

    A Page, however, can be joined and forgotten about. Not with a hashtag. A hashtags platform followers are determined by the engagement, not the numbers.

    3. You can only protect a hashtag by being a great platform that has a community that self moderates.

    Thanks again for the comments – nice to talk!

    Scott

  • http://twitter.com/ioninteractive ion interactive

    Hi Scott. I love hashtags because there are available to be used without any additional effort on the part of the user. They often come as an afterthought when typing out a tweet but before hitting send.

    At ion we’ve just started a Twitter chat to bring our community together once a week to talk about the conversion optimization industry, best practices, to brainstorm together and so on. Users also use our hashtag (#CROchat) throughout the week to share articles of interest with other participants (I shared this article!

    :-)
    ). So far we’re finding it to be great for community building, and creating relationships with others in the industry.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey!

    “I love hashtags because there are available to be used without any additional effort on the part of the user”

    That for me is a big clincher. It’s so easy to get into the platform.

    The problems that I do see are where the hashtag is abused. How are you thinking about guiding the direction of the hashtag?

    Thanks for the comment,
    Scott

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