The focus on this week's ABC Grandstand segment focuses on twitter hashtags, what they mean, and the importance of getting them right.

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With the NBA Playoffs and the AFL season  in full swing as we head toward June, social media is there in full force, and the masses are focusing heavily on their #hashtagging. With much of the sporting world’s attention fixed firmly on the race to the championship, hashtagging has become ever more prevalent as a way for fans to participate by tweeting about the action using a  particular #hashtag most relevant to the team. But it's the “right” hashtag that happens to be the dilemma at the forefront of the debate: do hashtags do more harm than good? Fortunately, for sport that is not so much the case but there are other incidents where a hashtag has caused headaches for a brand. Here, we are going to take a look at sport's teams and other brands that are using hashtags to garner positive, and sometimes negative, fan participation throughout the Twitter-sphere.

What is a Hashtag?

  Hashtags on Twitter are used by tweeps to:

– Identify a team's fan base, such hashtags that team's fans can use are #gopies, #goeagles and #ridemcowboys
– Hashtags can be used to drive promotions or competitions
– They can also drive the conversation amongst casual fans with hashtags like, #thevoiceau, #auspol, #masterchef and #afldogscats
– Funny meme – #replacemovie

The examples above are good examples of how hashtags can help a company's social media campaign work. But, we have seen some fails in regards to hashtags, such as with #QantasLuxury that backfired immensely on Qantas Airways.

Recently, State of Origin also had it's troubles with no directive from the NRL for fans to use a specific hashtag so many ended up being used, diluting the effectiveness of having a well-prepared hashtag for engagement with fans.

To learn more about hashtags and how they work in relation to sports, check out Episode Two of the #YouTube140 project, which focuses on hashtags.


Sports Geek Medals – The Hashtag edition

What hashtags do we like for the medals, honourable mention to #superawesomemicroproject.

Bronze – West Coast Eagles – #3flagsfull

The #3flagsfull hashtag is the one West Coast use when playing the Dockers, just to remind them of the premiership tally.

Silver – Geelong Cats – #catseatbirds

The #catseatbirds was what Geelong used in the 2011 finals when up against Hawks, Eagles & Magpies.

Gold – #goldswagger

Used effectively by the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Playoffs until they bowed out against the Miami Heat.

Until next week

Catch it live on Saturday mornings (at 7:40am) when Sean Callanan discuss sports digital with Francis Leach on ABC Grandstand. Tune into ABC Grandstand Breakfast Friday through Monday on ABC Grandstand digital radio. Follow @saintfrankly Follow @abcgrandstand

Podcast transcription

STEVE: Have you ever wondered when people talk about hashtags and hash this and hash that when we are in this Twitter-sphere world that we're in at the moment, exactly what people are talking about? I can hold my hand up and say I have wondered. Clearly it's some sort of thread thing, but I don't know if I can ever quite explain it to you, but luckily I know a man who can and he's sitting right opposite me. Morning Sean.

SEAN: Good day Steve.

STEVE: Sean Callanan who comes in every week usually talking to Francis, but you got me today, but irrespective of that what're we talking with hashtags? How does this all work because it's become such a phenomenon in the Twitter world, which everyone, well a lot of people, are using these days, aren't they?

SEAN: So, yes, in the Twitter-sphere, I think you got it right. I'm a fan of saying “tweeting” rather than “twittering.”

STEVE: I knew you were going to say that.

SEAN: But either or, but I'm old school, as much as you can be old school for a four-year-old technology.

STEVE: Is it four years now?

SEAN: It's about four years, yeah…

STEVE: Is it really?

SEAN: So hashtags are a way for you to group the conversation and get that conversation around a particular topic, so we see it a lot in sport. One of the biggest hashtags that has been in Twitter is the Super Bowl, so as people are watching the Super Bowl they'll put the hashtag, and so when we're talking the people are looking at their keyboards saying ‘Where's the hashtag symbol.' It's the, oh how do I explain it, the two lines, vertical two lines, horizontal hash mark and then you put the word, and so when you're watching the Super Bowl it would've been #superbowl. One of the ones that brought me to the topic was during the week State of Origin was in town.

STEVE: Yeah…

SEAN: And what we saw, I was looking at my Twitter stream, and I saw the following hashtags, I saw #origin, #origin1, #stateoforigin, #SOO, #SOO1, and so everyone was sort of going, there was a real call of ‘What is the hashtag? How can we, you know, what is the official one we're meant to use?' So it's a bit of the NRL dropped the ball a little bit on that one not telling the fans, ‘Hey guys tag you're tweets ‘this.”

STEVE: Really, so is that what organisations should be doing?

SEAN: Yes, they should be doing, especially around specific events, so like the NBA currently going through the playoffs, if you go there is actually a button on the that says “tweet NBA playoffs.” You hit that button and you can start writing your tweet with the hashtag already embedded, so automatically if you're just watching the TV whether you're in Melbourne or Sydney watching the game or in Miami or in New York or in Los Angeles, you can be following a whole stream of conversation via the hashtag, and so that way you can then follow other friends or follow other tweeps on Twitter. You can pretty much put TW in front of any word on Twitter and get away with it. That's pretty much the rule.

STEVE: Yeah, I was forgetting the rule.

SEAN: So you'll be able to find new people that follow the interest you might have.

STEVE: I'm a little bit of an amateur with this, and I'm hoping a few other people will be as well. So at the moment I would say follow, I don't know how many it is, a couple hundred people, whatever, you can also follow conversation streams through hashtags…

SEAN: Well you can just use Twitter's search facility and say, ‘I want to follow that particular hashtag.' So who do you follow in the AFL?

STEVE: Uh, I don't know, Tom Harley, for example.

SEAN: So Tom Harley is a person so you can follow him but what team do you follow?

STEVE: Oh, I see, ***laughter***

SEAN: Yeah, sorry, your team.

STEVE: I was trying to get into the following in Twittie…

SEAN: Exactly, yes…

STEVE: Let's say Hawthorn.

SEAN: So you're a Hawthorn man, so at the moment I think from a membership point of view I think their using the hashtag, #alwayshawthorn, so you can be following that to see other fans, but you also might be seeing the more shortened down version of #gohawks.

STEVE: Ahhhhh…

SEAN: So on a game day if you went and tuned in to #gohawks you would find a whole bunch of other Hawthorn fans and you might want to say, ‘Oh, I want to follow them,' because during the week they might have some good inside info on the Hawthorn game plan or who's in and who's out, and it sort of helps you find more people to follow. So we have seen hashtags and sports, I think, uses them really well in corralling the teams and corralling all the fans and giving them something to rally around, whether it be #gopies, #goeagles, #purplepride, #gomanly. Like they're not super clever, they're just, you know, what we tell the teams is ‘If you haven't got a hashtag, what's the guy in the stands yelling out the most,' right?

STEVE: **laughing*** yeah.

SEAN: So as a Collingwood fan, you like “Go Pies,” so it makes sense that to be the hashtag. If you try to be a little bit too clever, some teams, both here and abroad, sometimes try to be too clever and try to use the marketing message that they've got for the year, and it really is great for a flier and great for a promotion, but it doesn't really, you're not going to yell out what that is whatever the promotion might be. So it's much better to get to the raw emotion and tap into it that way.

STEVE: But, I mean, that's the official hash-tagging, but there is plenty of unofficial words we see around them, and I could've easily put out something on Wednesday night and just called it hashtag, the try that wasn't, something like that…

SEAN: Well, exactly and that's the other thing that sometimes, and I've been known to do that, as well, is effectively….

STEVE: Controversial that's surely, Sean.

SEAN: No, no, you can actually use the hashtag as a bit of sarcasm…

STEVE: Yeah, yeah…

SEAN: You know, or a just a bit of a juxtaposition of what you're tweet is. You know you say, ‘Aw, that was an awesome call by the ref, hashtag, #notreally.

STEVE: **laughing***

SEAN: You know, put a bit of that sarcasm into it, so there is a bit of that. I've been known to do exceptionally long hashtags to make people pay attention to actually read what would be normally a sentence, but I just put it in a hashtag. So, yeah, it has been that. There has been other, you know, memes that sort of jump up. Francis is a big one for using hashtags for memes and, you know, hashtag #grandstandbreakfast.

STEVE: Yeah.

SEAN: Sorry, hashtag #grandstand to send in your tweets. Or, you know, he wants song titles for a particular team or that kind of thing, he'll put it out on hashtag and people will send them in via hashtags, so you can do it, you know, you can pump them up at any point. And then you can do it around particular events whether it be TV events, game events, those kind of things. So plenty of hashtags, so that's what it is and then it's a matter if you see someone hashtagging and what're they talking about it's best to click on the hashtag and then you'll see all the other tweets of all the other people doing it, so if you're not quite….

STEVE: Aw, right, so you can click on #gopies and it'll just bring up everyone's #gopies tweets.

SEAN: Exactly and there will be all those Collingwood supporters there and you'll quickly run away and go back to a safe place. **laughter**

STEVE: So, anyway, Twitter is four-years-old and obviously this has developed over the time. I mean is this an ever changing technology even within Twitter. I mean what we're talking about now, was everyone doing this four years ago?

SEAN: Yes and no. It's a development through the Internet and more people are knowing about it but it hasn't got any harder or smarter or there hasn't been new checks put to it. It's just that more people are understanding…hang on we're rolling out a new TV show, we need to tell all our fans to use this and probably the best example on TV at the moment is The Voice. They're getting everyone to use that particular hashtag (#thevoice). That hashtag will be trending in the world that night because all the people are sending in their tweets, and so that's what was happening with Origin. People were all tweeting #origin. I think it's #stateoforigin where it ended up, then #origin again, both of them ended up trending, but if they had amalgamated them both they would've had a bit of a wider effect.

STEVE: And when you say trending you mean?

SEAN: If you look on Twitter it'll say this is the stuff that's really hot at the moment, so the AFL Grand Final pushed out the hashtag #aflgf, and so everyone in Australia who was watching the Grand Final was tweeting about the game put #aflgf, and even in America and the UK on Twitter it says the #aflgf is trending, so, you know, it sort of gives national or international attention to whatever your cause is. So that's the power, I guess, of Twitter hashtags.

STEVE: I mean is it sport that uses it best? Or are there other examples where it's taken hold? SEAN: Obviously, one of the most popular hashtags last year was the hashtag #tigerblood, and that was from Charlie Sheen's rants on Twitter…

STEVE: Ohhhh, right…

SEAN: And so then everyone started using #tigerblood as a rude of a way of saying how awesome they were. So it has taken hold and we have seen hashtags go bad. So #QantasLuxury was a hashtag that Qantas decided to run a little simple competition “Tell us what your Luxury experience is and you can win” I think it was a toiletry bag, and everyone decided, ‘No, we're going to give you a completely different answer to what the hashtag #QantasLuxury is, and it went viral and you know the Ozzy sense of humor took hold of it and it was a PR disaster for Qantas, so there is, you know, McDonald's have had the same thing. They said, ‘Share your McDonald's MD stories.'

STEVE: Oh, really, that's…you see that jumps out at me as standing on the freeway.

SEAN: Exactly and people just go this is awesome we can really flip this on the brand, so it's very, brands have to be very careful because people who don't like them or want to have a potshot they can have a go at them. So whereas teams, you know, obviously you've got your rallying support, your digital cheer squad out there that are going to support you. You're always going to get pretty good support from your fans, so that's the main thing where sports has the advantage of having some really good fan base behind them. One of the ones that I always do are my medals at the end of the week. One of the ones I like is #3flagsfull. That's what the West Coast Eagles will be using today because they're playing the Dockers and they just want to remind them how many flags they have. ***Steve laughing*** so that's a good one just to rub it into the fans.

STEVE: That's good. I like it.

SEAN: One that I really like and it's unfortunate as a Pie supporter but I think Geelong did well last year in the Grand Finals with #catseatbirds when they were coming up against the Hawks, the Eagles & the Magpies in the finals. And another one from the NBA where the Indiana Pacers had everyone wearing gold t-shirts in the NBA playoffs so that went the hashtag #goldswagger. So everyone was tweeting it.

STEVE: Yeah, I like it.

SEAN: And last one for one to keep an eye on from a hashtag and a long hashtag at that is the hashtag #superawesomemicroproject, which is a project that's being developed on Twitter and will continue to grow, and I can't tell anything more than that, but if you follow the hashtag you'll keep an eye on it and see it develop.

STEVE: I'll simply have to say the hashtag #superawesomemarvelouswork, love your work. That's fantastic, Sean, thank you. Things are much, much clearer now.