I’m super-stoked to see the prevalence of Twitter amongst the different regions of the United Methodist Church.
I’m not super-stoked to see short-sighted social media policies by those different regions.
The short-sighted policy? Annual conferences are increasingly using dates in their hashtags.
For example, let’s look at Twitter-savvy Ken Carter’s annual conference of Florida. In 2010, Florida AC used #flumc as the hashtag. It makes sense: @flumc is their twitter account, flumc2.org is their website. And yet in 2012 and 2013, they used #flc12 and the ridiculously long #flac2013.
This is the same thing happening across the Connection. In my home conference of Oklahoma, we’ve used #okumc for four years (same letters as the facebook and webpage). And yet this year, they changed it to #ac2013. In my current conference of Oregon-Idaho, it has used #umoi (same letters as its website) for four years, and this year it was changed to #umoi2013 (edit: they changed it back to #umoi. Thank you Greg!!)
- In 2009, 7 out of 33 annual conferences used non-sustaining hashtags that included the year: 21%
- In 2010, 4 out of 26 annual conferences used non-sustaining hashtags that included the year: 15%
- In 2012, 19 out of 42 annual conferences used non-sustaining hashtags that included the year: 45%
- In 2013, 30 out of 59 annual conferences used non-sustaining hashtags that included the year: 51%
The problem with this approach is twofold:
- It uses more characters and thus takes up more space in the 140 character tweet
- It is event-specific and does not have sustaining value
The first objection is easy. Yes, it uses less letters. Done.
The second takes more explanation and Methodist-ese
- Using the year means that once the event is done, the hashtag loses its value. Will a twitter user post something next week about #OKUMC using #ac2013? No. They will use #OKUMC. And that means that only people who have previously used that hashtag will see it. If an entire week’s worth of new twitterers and delegated used the event-specific hashtag, they won’t see new content.
- Using the year means that communicators don’t have a built-in channel for content. If everyone used the same hashtag, then more people would likely save the search or have it in mind when they tweet about their own annual conference. Using event-specific ones rob the people of that channel (ie. #UMC refers to ongoing UMC stuff, not just a week or a day’s worth).
- Finally, it’s not United Methodist to refer to Annual Conference as an event and not a perpetuity. We are all in Annual Conferences, which are annual events, yes, but they are also organizing bodies for a region. The Annual Conference does not exist for only 3-5 days, it exists for 365/366 days a year. So using a channel that implies interesting work only happens once a year is not Methodist and undercuts the perpetual work of the region.
My hope is that more conference revert to using perpetual hashtags so that the work of the annual conference is noticed and made known throughout the year not just one week. It just makes good social media and Methodist sense.(Photo credit: “Hashtag” by Flickr user Shoveling Son, used under Creative Commons share)