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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Observations about Twitter hashtags

I've been spending more time on Twitter lately, and wanted to note two things I've gleaned, rather unscientifically.

First, about tweeting topics (or trending hashtags) and culture.

In Japan, many trending topics and/or hashtags encourage sharing of personal information, and moreso of interaction between twitter users. Some examples from the last few days are: "how I came to start tweeting" and "what age would you say I am?". What seems far less prevalent thematically in Japan when compared to the other places I've been watching (French, German, Irish, American), are people (celebrities, sports figures), TV shows, and states of mind. Since I don't keep abreast of most entertainment news, and think twice before presenting too many of my rants for public consumption, I'm finding it easier to participate in incorporating the Japanese themes into my tweets, than the Western ones.

Second, a tale of two anniversaries and twitter strategies: MIT150 and Harvard375.

Alongside my employer's centennial, both my alma mater and the "little red brick schoolhouse" are celebrating milestone years. (As an aside, last year was my high school's centennial year).

MIT has its own sesquicentennial-specific domain (linked above) and 4 Twitter IDs (the primary one being @MIT150):
MIT150  MIT150
However, I couldn't see any hashtag use, which implies that their target audience would have had to know about the ID. As well, a cursory search for affiliated accounts, shows that the MIT Museum account is most popular currently with over 40K followers, whereas MIT Press takes second spot with nearly 15,600 followers. The business school (Sloan) takes third place in follower count, at 12K roughly.

On the other hand, Harvard has a surprisingly poor following for its 375th year specific ID:

Harvard University Harvard University

However: what the main @Harvard ID uses is its own #Harvard375 hashtag. Which the official @Harvard ID has been interspersing with all its other news. This reaches its nearly 63K followers.

Harvard University 

@Harvard view full profile 

Cambridge, MA
 On the other hand, the self-professed official MIT presence on Twitter has the following stats, which to me were somewhat - but not excessively - surprising:
MITnews   MITnews
From the contrast that the stats present and via my recollections of my exposure to both school cultures, I'm positing that MIT is more likely to use Twitter as a tool to convey useful information to its community, and only chooses to follow sources they know that they would retweet or benefit from factually. On the other hand, Harvard seems to take advantage of the medium (as with other social media tools) to promote itself consciously with public relations and networking in mind. These are likely stemming from fundamental philosophical differences concerning interpersonal communication. Looking at their homepages, the respective real estate allocated to social media is also quite revealing.

The lesson I'm inferring here is that although my instinct is to use Twitter in the MIT style, in order to be successful in Twitter I need to shift to the Harvard way. 

p.s. I've decided to shift to a less intensive publishing schedule for the month of September, with apologies in advance for the unpredictable (but reduced) post count. At the same time I may try to become more active on Twitter. No promises though!

About Mayo

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Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.