Stop using Annual Conference 2013 Hashtags

hashtagI’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, 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!!)

This phenomenon has grown since 2009, as the bullet points below indicate. I’m using Andrew Conard’s list of annual conferences from 2009, 2010, and 2012, and for 2013.

  • 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:

  1. It uses more characters and thus takes up more space in the 140 character tweet
  2. 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)
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    • Audrey says

      One of the things I love best about this blog is Jeremy’s combination of majors issues and pedestrian (seemingly irrelevant). This kind of strategic communications commentary is helpful for many of us who are using experience to discover those details which distinguish between excellent and mediocre campaigns.

  1. Marty says

    I had the same concern but hadn’t articulated the reasons I didn’t like it. You did that much better than I could have. Thanks.

    And effectively telling the story IS the really important thing.

  2. Brett says

    “Using the year means that once the event is done, the hashtag loses its value.”
    That statement carries with it a very large assumption.

    • says

      Out of all of the above, this is what you bring up? I don’t think it is a big assumption. Twitter only keeps searches for a short amount of time, I think 36 months in some cases, less if no one uses the hashtag at all. So all the tweeting and comments will be lost to everyone except the advertisers after that period.

      Searching for content on #okumc brings in content year-round. Searching for content on #ac2013 brings in this year and only for one week. That’s it. Which one shows a more robust Methodism in Oklahoma?

      • Brett says

        The assumption is that either hashtags or Twitter have value. If I concede for the sake of argument that they do, then your suggestion is on target and I don’t disagree with it. It’s the same thing as Facebook groups from a camp or an event for one year, or a band’s concert tour, or a political campaign for a particular election. Or even a book that focuses on a public figure or group or subject of the moment. My disagreement is with the idea that Twitter and hashtags indicate much beyond temporary interest.

  3. says

    We actually just had this conversation at a staff meeting in which I announced the #tag the youth would be using on the Senior High Mission Trip. With Facebook tagging now, it seems like a great way for the church to be able to seek out the joys of the event that they’re supporting. It’s great for indexing for us, it’s a win. But then the conversation turned to, “What else should we hash tag? This would be great!”
    It wouldn’t be great … It would be madness. So we’re seeking out a more generic tag for church ministries, outside of our big event trips. Just makes more sense. Like you said, if we had a generic tag everybody used for our congregation, you get a better idea of all of the awesome things that are happening.

    So… Amen.

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