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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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October 2010

#HaveYouRegisteredYourHashtag?

One of the things that amazes me about social media is how it can evolve in unexpected ways.

Online information sharing sparks ideas for new ways to ‘do it better’ and often platform designers themselves are surprised by what occurs (at least, I imagine they’re surprised. I hope they’re surprised).

The Twitter hashtag movement undoubtedly falls into this category. What I want to focus on, in this post, is the growing movement to register hashtags. (If you need a definition of hashtags first, see this blog post from my friend Lee Hopkins).

While it seems that many Twitter uses are adept at using hashtags and understand how useful they are, few actually register a hashtag or know that this option exists.

Over recent years, as hashtags have grown in use, online services have emerged which allow you to ‘register’ a hashtag and upload a definition. These include What The HashtagTwubs and Hashtag.Org. These handy services then provide user stats on the hashtags – all for free, in the tradition of social media. [Interesting note: What The Hashtag are selling the option to become a ‘featured hashtag‘ on the site].

I like What The Hashtag’s explanation for why you might want to register a hashtag:

“The idea for WTH?! was sparked by the fact that there was not one central place online where you could learn about what the hell different hashtags meant. There are plenty of ways to track them, but WTH?! exists to educate people about what the hashtags stand for and where users can find more information about them”.

Many Twitter users are frustrated when trying to find out the definition of a hashtag, when they aren’t blatantly obvious (such as hashtags for conference acronyms for example). When you’re not sure what a hashtag means, you can tweet the question, sure – but sometimes it takes a while for a response. So sites like WTH are handy.

The other thing I Iike about the WTH explanation is it doesn’t imply that anyone can ‘own’ a hashtag for some exclusive purpose – it’s about finding out what popular hashtags mean. Other sites are moving into different territory, reminiscent of trade marking.

Twubs launched in April 2009 according to its creators 360 Hubs. Their reason for why you should register a hashtag?

“It minimizes the likelihood of using a hashtag that is already in use by another organization or event. Helps prevent other events or organizations from using your hashtag.  Promoters of Twubs.com can effectively “own” their conversation, where appropriate. For example, Cisco should probably have a right to control content being displayed at Twubs.com that is related to #Cisco; whereas, the public should own other content like #wine or #CMS, etc..so, some Twubs that should be the “public’s domain will remain as such; but, organizations that own trademarks will be able to manage their branded hashtag appropriately.”

This is clearly taking hashtags a step further, suggesting some sort of ownership of a hashtag. Which is very tricky to claim. (Though the explanation does say ‘content being displayed at Twubs.com).

Unlike trademarks or domain name registrations, there is no official body governing ownership of hashtags. And I don’t think there should be. Today’s #Cisco for the electronics giant could be tomorrow’s newest-Mexican-sounding-band or a revival of the Cisco kid.

For my part, I like to register a hashtag that I have some investment in, like #socadl and #workwed. It doesn’t mean anything in a court of law (yet) but it sure is nice to tell the world what your hashtag means and demonstrate that somebody cares about it. (Hear that, hashtag spammers? There’s a topic for a future blog …)

Why are Twitter lists so … listless?

Back in November 2009, Twitter launched Twitter lists. I don’t want to ponder their many uses, but ponder how well behaved we are online.

The mainstream media would have you believe social media is the shadowy realm of stalkers, burglars, paedophiles and narcissists, but actually it’s more like the home of good catalogue keepers – if lists are anything to go by.

Now, I haven’t undertaken a formal study into this … this blog is based on my own observations.

Behold the evil earwig
Behold the evil earwig

Most of the first Twitter lists I saw emerge were based on a geographic location. Adelaide tweeters have an ‘Adelaide’ list for example. There were ‘Aussie’ lists and ‘Melbourne tweeps’ and so on.

 Other lists were based on professions (‘marketing’ ‘media’) or areas of interest (‘internet technologies’ ‘social media’ ‘travel’). And yes, there were a helluva lot of social media lists.

After a time, tweeters began to pull together different lists, along the lines of ‘people I have met’ and ‘top locals’ and ‘confirmed real person’. These were only a slight upgrade from location-based lists, but at least people were using more informal language.

Lists are almost de rigueur for conferences (along with conference hashtags). So you’ll get a list of tweeters who attended the Tweet Mania Santa Fe conference in 2010. (Don’t Google it, I just made it up). (Okay, do Google it and tell me what you find). Still fairly banal though, isn’t it? Fairly safe and well-behaved.

In the last 2-3 months, more fun has emerged.
I bemoaned the fact that there weren’t enough silly lists (via Twitter of course) and said I wanted to be on a silly list. So pal @catep36 produced this list:  The same day, @idrewthis produced this list [it’s a long story]. Of course, that made my day. Why aren’t there more Twitter lists like this?

I’m guessing it’s because people don’t expect to have fun with lists. They’ll have fun with status updates and photos and hashtags. But lists are supposed to be functional, right? Or not?

Among my first lists was the ‘Earwig Haters’  list. I detest the little, evil-looking bugs with their evil-looking horns. And I assumed a lot of other people would. So I initiated that list and threw a few random tweet friends onto it, to see what would happen. A few noticed and enjoyed it; a few asked me what was going on; most didn’t notice. Occasionally, someone will demand to be added to my Earwig Haters list. It’s great when that happens.

However, despite my social media narcissistic tendencies that lead me to believe the entire universe is reading my tweets, very few additional silly lists were created.

I thought earwigs would pave the way. Sadly, I was mistaken.

Have you seen any funny Twitter lists? Or will you make one now? [Add me!]

The 3 best juvenile iPhone apps

Here’s my top three iPhone apps for bringing out the inner teenager in you:

Bigmouth
It’s a simple little app that brings out the juvenile in anyone. Thanks to @samanthacain for the heads up on this one! Essentially, with Bigmouth you can paste a mouth onto photos stored on your iPhone, and record a silly voiceover. Of course, the sillier the better.

Screenshot, Bigmouth for iPhone
Screenshot, Bigmouth for iPhone

As far as outcomes go, this app hits the spot. It will make you laugh and provide some distractions during long train journeys. Sit around with your friends over a few drinks, and make Bigmouth pieces of art from each other. Just don’t take offence at the words people might put in your mouth! Or use it to keep the kids happy when you’re in a waiting room with few distractions.

Bigmouth’s downside? The resizing of the ‘mouth’ and positioning of it over your photo can get tricky. The user buttons are also easy to get mixed up, so sometimes you’ll hit ‘record’ instead of ‘play’ and write over your hilarious work. That’s sad. Bigmouth has recently upgraded so you can share your comic genius through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The Twitvids don’t look so great on PC though – the fun seems best served on your phone.

Bad Breath Detector by OraBrush
Another app that will appeal to the juvenile inside you.  This app was developed to help market a tongue cleaner. Yes that’s right, a tongue cleaner.  I love it when companies can take a creative leap like this.

The app ‘detects’ the quality of your breath and gives you a quick result. These vary from ‘I smell dead people’ through to ‘your breath is so amazing, it took mine away’.

Orabrush is making a great splash online with this bad breath fun. It has thousands of followers on Facebook   (249,000 people like a tongue cleaner!) and Twitter  (almost 3,000) , plus great YouTube views  (currently #8 most subscribed ALL TIME).

The funniest aspect of this? Other people’s reactions. People act like it’s real, not an automatically generated voice. I’ve use this in boardrooms, at lunch tables, among friends and colleagues. They’re usually taken aback and very anxious about what their breath result will be. Does that make me evil? Do you smell dead people?

Rage – ABC TV
Rage is a late night/early morning music program on ABC TV in Australia. Many of us have grown up with it – who could forget those all-nighters, watching a great programmed set or waiting and hoping your favourite clip will get a run? It was always a trial to stay awake.

The Rage app solves a problem. Like the best apps do.

The Rage app is essentially its programming guide, song by song, minute by minute. So you can know exactly when the new Washington single will be aired, or when Cee Lo Green will be singing F** You. The app extends several weeks in advance and you can also look at guest programmer’s bios and their upcoming song lists.

Of course, the ABC always had this content. It’s another great example of how web 2.0 and social media is opening up content previously locked away. Because what’s the point of that?

What are your favourite juvenile apps?

What is PR anyway?

Many people ask me what public relations is.

PR seems to become easily confused with marketing and even advertising. And as more communications professionals from these fields use social media as a channel, the definition appears to become more blurred in some people’s minds. (Professionals across a range of disciplines are using social media tools as part of their communications plans, but this doesn’t change what their discipline is, any more than the availability of TV or a megaphone.)

Public Relations
Public Relations

One of my favourite (and most simple) definitions of PR comes from James Grunig and Todd Hunt, who call PR the “practice of managing communication between an organisation and its publics”. Let me make three points to help further explain public relations ….

One: looking at that definition … the interesting word is ‘publics’. That does not always equal The Public. This is where people have the most misconceptions about public relations. For one of my clients, its public could potentially be one suburb. It could be one community group, a network of CEOs around the world, one columnist, teen members of a sports code, female orange juice drinkers, or any other target audience you’d like to define and detail. PR doesn’t necessarily want to make a big mass audience splash.

Two: PR does not necessarily want to sell you Product A today – but it may work with Company A to keep it in business over the long term. PR can be about learning more from a target public. It might be trying to find out why health messages aren’t getting through to Public X. It might be defending a business smeared by an industry-wide scandal. It might want to lead an organisation through the best steps to announce a public float or release an annual report.

Three: PR work can go unnoticed; in many cases that’s when it’s most successful. That’s a stark difference between PR, advertising and marketing. You won’t see all of the best PR campaigns in awards ceremonies or on PR blogs – they’re behind the scenes work where clients have been helped to manage an issue that could have become a crisis. With good counsel, the clients’ business thrives on happily.

So, to recap: PR does not equal publicity. PR is the “practice of managing communication between an organisation and its publics”.

I’m happy to field questions … feel free to leave them in comments below.

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