Looking at some of the tweets going on during the latest (and last) BETT Radio show (hashtag #bettradio) I saw a comment from @peteschneider about what is the best hashtag which can be used by tweeps who are visitors to share what they are finding at BETT.
When I asked if this was because he was concerned that other hashtags could end up as just broadcast / taken over by exhibitors he said that yes, this was the case.
I said I had a plan … and I do … I have several in fact and there are some good and bad points to all of them. Some of it depends on how you use twitter, how companies work with social media / social networks and also how much of a sense of fair play people can expect when using a free tool at a free event. There are some hashtags already in use so let us have a look at those first.
#BETT_Show This is the official hashtag (according to Mango Marketing) and I presume it will be used by Mango Marketing and EMAP in the lead up and during the show … it also likely to be used by all and sundry .. because that is how hashtags can be used.
#BETTRadio This is the hashtag used by @russellprue before and during the show for the Radio shows. Russell has done 5 shows prior to BETT (available to download as a podcast) and will be on Prof. Stephen Heppell’s stand during the show. Russell has already said he is happy for this to be used to help people share things too.
#bettchat This has been used as part of the Tuesday afternoon discussions to find out what people think about particular things that are likely to see at BETT. Loosely similar to the #edchat #ukedchat and #edchatie hashtags, it has been a core group who have shared things … and considering the time in the day it was on some of the discussions were good … but occasionally did end up being exhibitors broadcasting where they were and what they are planning … nothing really wrong with that, but it can put some people off.
#bett #bett12 #bett2012 have already been used by many as these are similar to what has already been picked up by many other in previous years … and like any crowd-sourced choice, it is led by those who are most active and so you might have to wait to see which one gets picked up by the twitterati.
There will be other hashtags in use … exhibitors might use their own … the Fringe events will have their own … notable individuals might have their own too … so you can even see the situation where tweets will be full of hashtags before you even get any content. I’ve been in similar situations before when replying to tweets and it has begone to include more and more people … resulting in only 1 character left in each tweet to use … it was fun, but now how I like to do things.
And so we get to part of the issue. Some people, like Pete, are worried that the signal to noise ratio will be poor. That the tweets will be full of broadcast messages from exhibitors and little sharing of what visitors are finding interesting. Now, don’t get me wrong … there are some exhibitors who understand the 2-way nature of twitter, are actively taking part in conversations about technology, pedagogy and general stuff without pushing their products … but there are some who are shouters … broadcasters … almost deaf to what others are saying because they are used to only talking about the next wonderful thing they are doing … and this can be a turn off for some, or at the least a distraction.
One thing which could be done is that visitors and exhibitors agree that one hashtag will only be used by visitors to share things, or by people reporting on behalf of visitors … the information points perhaps or people like Russell. Exhibitors could be politely asked to play fair (and I think most would) and those that don’t could be spoken with, and named and shamed. From personal experience a similar method is used on the EduGeek forum where commercial vendors (who are not sponsors) tend to play fair as they know that users are usually the best advocates for their products / services anyway.
For those who worry about the broadcast traffic being too much, or if some people don’t honour the above (which is only an off-hand idea), then you could always create a second twitter account dedicated to BETT. Let people know you will be sharing your thoughts and hope others share theirs. Follow your regular folk and add in others throughout the day … and then if you find a shouter … then you can send a reply back pointing out that if you wanted their sales spin you would visit their stand (give them a chance first) but then you can block them and not have to worry about them any more. The downside is that people may not be following you so may not see some of your wonderful insights and you may miss some good stuff from others.
I’ve not seen any of the marketing infer this year (thankfully I don’t do any organising anymore) so I might be missing some guidance which has already gone to exhibitors … but I would be interested to see what people think of the ideas … whether it is just too much hassle … and even whether people think twitter is going to be the best tool? People might want to use Schmooze … or simply wait until the regulars who blog write up their own thoughts …
As always … open to ideas and feedback.