Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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What Is A Hashtag?

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on February 26, 2014

Internet HashtagLast weekend we tried to make drowning a trending topic on Twitter. The occasion was two neutral videos on water safety showing every hour during the Daytona 500 races.  Getting anything to trend on Twitter requires two things – a hashtag and retweeting. Today I’m going to talk more about the importance of hashtags – what they are, how we need to use them – and why we need to retweet.

Hashtags. The # character above the three on your keyboard. The hashtag is used before a word or phrase on Twitter to signify the topic. They are important because the algorithm of Twitter looks at how often hashtags are used to determine if something is trending (i.e. popular) and hashtags allow people to focus on what is being said about one subject.  A hashtag is like the glossary at the back of a book, it allows you to find all the references without reading the entire book.  Bottom line – nothing trends unless there is a hashtag involved.

For examples of other issues which lick here to read some examples of other issues which have trended successfully because of effective hashtag use, click here.

Some of the hashtags we see in drowning prevention are: #watersafety; #childsafety; #kidsafety; #swimming; #drownings; #children; #drowning, #kids, #safety, #wearit (for lifejackets); and #lifeguard.

The problem is, there is no consistency, nothing that clearly states we want to end drowning, and our community is too small to be using a huge number of hashtags. I’d like to strongly encourage people to start using #stopdrowning whenever possible as your primary hashtag. First, it will help you narrow down the 500 million daily tweets to a subject that interests you, second, it is the fastest and simplest way we have of reinforcing our global drowning prevention community and get our issued noticed outside the community, especially if we use other relevant hashtags. One of the more popular tweets was ‘I was just in the other room #stopdrowning #Daytona500’ This means this tweet would have gone to anyone following either the #stopdrowning conversation, or the #Daytona500 conversation. You can still use a hashtag that signifies your organization or a secondary subject, like #poolsafety, but unless we use one consistent hashtag, #stopdrowning, we will never gain momentum.

I will stress that #stopdrowning does not belong to anyone person or group. It’s a neutral hashtag. You have no reason not to use #stopdrowning because of concerns about proprietary issues related to your own program.

After hashtags, retweeting is the next best way of making a topic trend. Retweeting is simply hitting the retweet key on a tweet that you like, but what it means to the great Twitter machine is that ‘someone thinks this is interesting’ which puts that tweet or embedded hashtag higher on the ‘might be trending’ list.

If we are going to raise the profile of drowning globally, we need to use social media, not the way we think it should be used, but how it actually works, and that means using hashtags and retweeting.

As for the actual Daytona 500 trending results? First a huge thank you to all of you who did help. We fell far short from trending – a high of 45 people talking about it, 35 people retweeting, and 120 uses of #stopdrowning every 7 minutes – but by drowning prevention community standards, it was practically viral, so I’d say a great first effort. Most importantly, an indication that if we do work together we have a much wider reach. Without hashtags, our individual tweets are a drop in the 500 million daily tweet bucket.

Wondering how to start? Find a buddy, an organization you support, and commit to retweeting. The bonus? In Twitter etiquette, the more you retweet and engage, the more likely others are likely to retweet you. And finally, use #stopdrowning whenever you are tweeting about water safety, because the only way we will #stopdrowning is if we engage the public and get their attention, including the Twitter audience.

If you agree we need to make drowning a trending topic, click here to tweet ‘If we want to stop drowning #stopdrowning needs to be a trending topic’

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