How to Herd Cats on Twitter

If there is one thing you have to love about Twitter is that sometimes it seems like the “Wild West”. Untamed but with many opportunities.How to herd cats on Twitter

At other moments it feels like you are herding cats.

A chaotic stream of tweets that have no apparent organisation, theme or filters.

Wikipedia says this on herding cats:

An idiomatic saying that refers to an attempt to control or organize a class of entities which are uncontrollable or chaotic. Implies a task that is extremely difficult or impossible to do, primarily due to chaotic factors.

Now doesn’t that sound like Twitter?

It is trying to make sense of its chaos, embracing a jumble of jellyfish or throwing a net over a swarm of bees.

Always fun, sometimes dangerous but with a lot of potential.

Twitter has its own rhythm

Facebook is filtered for family and friend fun. Google+ is like Twitter on intelligence steroids…. Long form content preferred, geeky and very visual….with an overdose of males from Silicon Valley.

Well… what about Pinterest?…..It needs no explaining, just pin your image and let it speak its thousand words.

And Instagram?

A distraction in the form of an app that makes you stop what you are doing as you walk and travel. It is always tempting…you shoot, filter and send…. to the socialsphere.

Twitter is a torrent of humanity. News, feelings, inspiration and un-throttled. The rhythm is short and punchy but with links to a million rabbit holes that can distract. 

It’s quick and sometimes requires little thought and it shows.

 So how do you herd?

The herding of this torrent is done in part by Twitter tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and others. There is no Hootsuite for Facebook or Google+.

It’s not needed.

The other part of the herding equation apart from the tools is the lowly hashtag..”#”.

Harmless looking isn’t it?

This started in 2007 according to Wikipedia by Chris Messina to tag topics of interest on the microblogging network. He posted the alleged first post on Twitter to include what would become the “hashtag”:

How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp ?

The first high profile use of the hashtag was in the 2007 California fires by Nate Ritter with #sandiegofire.

On the international scene it gained more notoriety as hashtags became a common practice for the 2009-2010 Iranian election protests to glue stories and events together.

Want to send a Tweet to a loose global group with an interest and passion for social media? Use the hashtag #socialmedia . Interested in marketing then the hashtag #marketing is the go.

It is cat herding at its finest.

Are hashtags media glue?

Twitter’s fame continues to spread and in part it is because of its evolution as “the people’s” news channel. It has spread into Television, radio, billboards and conferences. Want to see the beat of the street at a conference? Enter the hashtag for the event and watch the feedback channel in all its 140 character glory.

Want to see the masses reaction to a TV show (many now display the shows hashtag on the screen). Then plug it into your smartphone and tablet and see the responses ebb and flow.

Negative, positive and reactive.

It is becoming the glue that connects social to mass media. It allows us to respond and interact with a medium that was meant to be a one way street.

The hashtag virus is spreading

The hashtag was “owned” by Twitter but it is now moving into Google+. It has been adopted by Instagram and its success there often revolves often around the hashtag habit and it continues to grow in stature.

Dan Zarella produces evidence that posts that include hashtags had a much higher like-to-follower ratios than those that did not.

The Importance of Hashtags on Instagram

Is Facebook going to hang with the gang ?

If rumours are true then they will… but at this stage a “Hashtag” on Facebook is like wearing belt and braces. It is not necessary or needed.

Want to know more about hashtags?

Here is an informative Infographic that will help you with the the art and science of hashtags to get you started.

It provides a simple what, why and where.

twitter hashtag infographic

Infographic by: Social Caffeine

What about you?

How do use hashtags? Do you even use them?

Look forward to hearing your stories and feedback in the comments below.

 

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It is now available to download. I show you how to create and build a blog that rocks and grow tribes, fans and followers on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. It also includes dozens of tips to create contagious content that begs to be shared and tempts people to link to your website and blog.

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Image by Shutterstock

 

 

Comments

  • http://www.genetica-web-solutions.com/ jovaeli

    Hashtags are working great for me! At January 2013 I had less than 5 followers on Twitter and as soon as I discovered it, I reach my first 100s in less than 2 weeks.
    It allowed me to be more findable.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      That is good to hear. They are an enigma for many!
      Sounds like you have found your twitter sweet spot.

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Thanks Lydia for the comment. My point about Twitter vs Facebook is Twitters need for a tool that creates lists, searches hashtags etc rather than just posting which is more about publishing rather than categorizing and searching

    • http://twitter.com/lksugarman Lydia Sugarman

      Exactly! That’s why we’ve included those features.

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Thanks Sam for the comment and yes the humble hashtag, despite its simplicity is very misunderstood! :)

    • http://twitter.com/KCRmarketing Kevin Robinson

      You #want to #talk about #hashtag #abusers! Please #make #those #people #go #away

      • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

        I think that comment included way to many hashtags! :)

      • Keith Day

        #lol

  • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

    Go Jovaeli!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chasdemain Chas Demain

    Thanks Jeff. I am stil learning every day about Twitter. I’ve tried Hashtags but like so much else it seem to have levels of subtlety that need to be explored and understood. This – like all your articles – was a great help.

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Always glad to help Chas.

  • venkyiyer58

    Believe it or not, I have never yet used a hashtag!

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      I believe it… though many people wouldn’t :)

  • http://twitter.com/mj_preston Mary Jo Preston

    Jeff- really love your blog style. Good data, useful information with a great delivery!

    • http://jeffbullas.com Jeff Bullas

      Thanks Mary. I am working on the “voice” :)

  • Fingersflying

    Started my own hashtag #CCOT, to reach a specific segment of people involved in politics. Now hundreds of people use it, and Twitter is posting pictures on it. I hope it trends someday.

    • MrTanak

      Amen

  • http://www.techibiz.com/ Akshat Goel

    This is so damn true! Wihout hashtags I was like buried on Twitter and since I have started using hashtags, my followers, retweets and favorites have increased by a substantial amount!

  • erickwrites

    Samantha,

    I give people the example that if they’re using Google to search for Justin Bieber tickets, they’re going to use those keywords. But, if they’re using Twitter, because of the 140 character limit, Justin Bieber (or more likely the marketing company that works with him) will have a designated hashtag like #BiebTix.

    Then again, they can just save themselves even more time and go straight to Ticketmaster.

    • Keith Day

      Great example Eric!