Monday, June 3, 2013

Hashtags 2.0

Twitter provides us with a  comprehensive definition for hashtags - one most hardcore social media pros can recite by heart - and how they are used. But often when I'm teaching the mystical ways of the Twitterverse to the uninitiated, I find myself describing not just the basic definition but the different forms a hashtag can take. Earlier this year, I included a well rounded definition for each form and some examples of them as I was writing an official Twitter guide for my company. As Carahsoft social strategy evolves, these guides are already becoming an important aide as our social media team grows and we train more of our c-suite level employees on how to get the most from the platform as individuals.

Not only did I take the time to define these hashtags, but I've also implemented a style preference to coincide with each. You'll notice a big fan of AP style and journalistic brevity (given my background) and that carries over into the "Titles" section. Read each of them below:

Two or more words that have been compounded into a singular hashtag. Like common compound prefixes, these words should not be capitalized. The exception for this rule includes those used in Titles. See Titles. Unlike common compounds, no hyphens are necessary.

                 #bigdata – Big Data
                 #cybercrime – Internet Crime
                 #opensource – Open Source
                 #dataanalytics – Data Analytics


A group of initial letters used as an abbreviation for a name or expression. All such hashtags should include the capitalization of all letters. Exceptions include initials such as “of” in the hashtag #DoD which is the abbreviation for the U.S. Department of Defense.

                 #BYOD - Bring Your Own Device
                 #CIO – Chief Information Officer
                 #CISO – Chief Information Security Officer
                 #DDoS – Distributed Denial of Service
                 #GIS – Geographic Information Systems

All singular words, whether they are nouns, adverbs, adjectives or suffixes, which are used as hashtags should be lowercase. The exception for this rule includes those used in Titles. See Titles.

             #virtualization Virtualization
                 #collaboration – Collaboration
                 #mobility – Mobility
                 #cloud – Cloud

As is with the AP styling of publication titles, all composition, webcast and on-site event titles should include capitalization for all principal words as well as prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters. This includes capitalization of all hashtags, including those that are used in truncation. See Truncation.

.@Pentaho webcast today at 2pm ET - #BigData Analytics for the #FedGov w/ #MongoDB. #GovIT

Typically embodies the abbreviation of a word in a format which consists of only the first part of the word. In Twitter hashtags, this often consists of multiple words combined. These types of hashtags should normally be all lowercased. The exclusions for this rule include unique interpretations, proper nouns and the use of titles. See Titles.

                 #digitalgov – Digital Government
                 #infosec – Information Security
                 #mobilegov – Mobile Government
                 #opengovOpen Government
                 #GovTech – Government Technology
                 #GeoINT – Geospatial Intelligence
                 #HigherEd – Higher Education
                 #TechTalk – Technology Talk

Varied Abbrev.
Some hashtags include a mixture of truncation and initialism style abbreviations. If the truncation precedes the initials, then the hashtag should always begin with capitalization. If the initials precede truncation, do not capitalize the truncated portion. Single initialism followed by truncation should begin with a lowercase, followed by capitalization. See Initialism and Truncation for comprehensive style descriptions.

                 #GovIT – Government IT
                 #Gov20   – Government 2.0
                 #EduIT – IT Education
                 #CAgov – California Government
                 #ITsecurity - IT Security
                 #INgov – Indiana Government
Singular Initialism-Truncation:
                 #eGov – Electronic Government
                 #mLearning – Mobile Learning
                 #oGov – Open Government

I certainly recognize that Twitter is an unrestricted culture and these guiding definitions are purely applied as a means to establish a consistent voice in Carahsoft's own brand. With that said, I'd love to know what rule of thumb you go by in your organization's Twitter messaging. Feel free to share them in the comments.

Thanks for reading!