For #SciCommSunday: On the power of hashtags

Often completely underrated by people who start using twitter: The power of hashtags.

In this post: Very brief intro and then the three main purposes for which I personally use hashtags.

Hashtags: make your tweets easily findable

Marking a keyword in a tweet with the #-sign turns it into a link which, if clicked, takes you to a list of all other occurrences of this keyword marked by the #-sign, too. Hashtags are therefore a great way to make sure your tweets are seen by the relevant audience, or to make sure you see everything anyone else ever tweeted and marked with a specific hashtag.

Hashtags can be very broad (for example #science) or they can be very specific (like my favourite hashtag, #KitchenOceanography). And there is a whole spectrum in between those two extremes. Going from broad to more specific, one could use hashtags like #OceanScience, #Oceanography, #PhysicalOceanography, #OceanographyLab. Each of those is targeting a smaller audience, but one that is probably more specifically interested in what you are sharing (if you are writing about kitchen oceanography). Which hashtags to use therefore depends really on who you want to reach with a tweet: a larger, broad audience or a smaller, more focussed one.

I personally use hashtags for three main purposes:

Finding & building my community using hashtags

#CTDAppreciationDay, on January 22nd, is an amazing example of how social media can bring a community together around a common passion, in this case an oceanographic instrument.

This year’s #CTDAppreciationDay was the 5th annual event of its kind. From what I understand, it was started out of a combination of frustration and boredom at sea (but I might be completely off here. The first mention that I can find and that I am basing my interpretation on is this one here). But no matter why it was started, it definitely caught on: Oceanographers of all disciplines use the instrument, and clearly many people appreciate it a lot. So on this year’s #CTDappreciationday, about 200 tweets used that hashtag on Twitter. Nearly all of those tweets were either reminiscing of a particularly noteworthy moment at sea working with the instrument, a pretty sunset or rough weather, or were showing the many different applications of the instrument.

While those tweets are definitely enjoyable, for me, using this specific hashtag more is about finding “my people” than the content of the tweets themselves. Just following the hashtag #CTDAppreciationDay, I found about 40 new people to follow on that one day. All those people share my passion for fieldwork and appreciation of CTDs, and tweet about stuff related to the oceanography. I also gained 22 new followers that same day plus 19 more over the next two days (can’t be completely sure they all found me via that hashtag, but many of them followed me back after I followed them). As I don’t go to conferences any more, twitter is my main way of meeting new oceanographers, and this hashtag worked super well!

Which hashtag could you use to find “your people” — people that you don’t know exist yet but that share your passions?

Finding relevant tweets to a topic using hashtags

I love lab experiments. #FlumeFriday is a hashtag used on Fridays to mark posts that show some kind of experiment in a flume (a channel filled with water; in oceanography labs typically used to generate waves in or to have a stretch of controlled flow; both often combined with experiments on sediment transport, coastal protection, flows under different conditions). So in short: #FlumeFriday is super exciting for me! And it’s a hashtag that I both follow (because it’s so cool! Also I am always looking to learn more about tank experiments, what people work on in that area, what techniques they use, what their experiences are, …) and actively use (because I know that people following that hashtag are interested in tank experiments, even though mine are usually a lot more small-scale than most other people’s).

Another example of hashtags I follow are conference hashtags, whether I am there or not. For example #OSM20, the hashtag of the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020,y is one that I will definitely follow since I wish I could be there!

Are there topics for which you would like to be notified each time someone tweets about them? What hashtags would people use for those topics?

Curating a collection of tweets using hashtags

There are two hashtags that I use with my work all the time: #KitchenOceanography (which was actually first used by my friend Geli at a time when I really didn’t know how to use Twitter well) and #FriendlyWaves. Both are super specific. #KitchenOceanography is about the oceanography-related experiments that you can do using only household items (check out posts about that here). #FriendlyWaves are posts in which I explain pictures of waves that my friends sent me.

Over the last months, pretty much all uses of those two hashtags were somehow related to me and my work. Which is really awesome: People who now look at those hashtags because they are curious what exactly is hidden behind those two terms find two projects that I am really passionate about, and also see that I am dominating those hashtags. So in a really positive way, I use those hashtags to “mark my territory”. And if someone else should start using them more frequently, I know there is a great new friendship in the making!

What hashtag is so super specific to your interests and work that you can make it your own, make it part of “your brand”?

One thought on “For #SciCommSunday: On the power of hashtags

  1. Pingback: #SciCommSunday: How your audience changes the more Twitter followers you have - Dr. Mirjam S. Glessmer

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