An interesting question about Twitter hashtags
came in from one of our readers last week. It seems likely that other
nonprofits might have run into a similar situation, so let’s take a run
at it here —
Depending on the circumstances, you might politely contact the other
organization and ask them to relinquish that hashtag. That's a diplomatic situation you’ll need to play by ear, because the reality is that you really
have no formal recourse here.
Our organization has been using a certain hashtag on Twitter. Now
another organization has started to use the same hashtag. How can we handle that?
Hashtags are just another kind of social media tags — labels we
stick on a bit of web content. There is no central registry for
hashtags.There is no way to reserve or claim a particular hashtag for
your organization’s exclusive use. In fact, there is no way for any
Twitter user to control how a certain hashtag is used, by whom it is used, or for what
However, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the chance
of accidentally choosing a hashtag that’s already “taken” — or of
seeing “your” hashtag in regular use by another organization.
Get a Fresh Hashtag
Search on Twitter.com for the hashtag you have in mind, or browse the directory at Hashtags.org.
Is that hashtag already in use for some other purpose? If so, it’s
generally best to avoid confusion by choosing a different one. An
exception might be if the hashtag was used only a few times, used by
individuals rather than organizations, and not used recently. If in
doubt, however, pick a fresh tag.
Publish Your Definition
Hashtag dictionary websites are not directly affiliated with
Twitter, so many Twitter users don’t know these dictionary sites exist.
Others may not think to check these sites when selecting a new hashtag.
Still, listing your new hashtag with these sites can help to formalize
your usage of that tag, and acts as a service to those savvy Twitter
users who do look up unfamiliar hashtags.
Here are 5 popular sites where you can list and define your new hashtag:
Use it or Lose it
Use your hashtag regularly (and encourage your staff, volunteers,
and other supporters to do the same) so that it becomes strongly
associated with your organization, mission, event… whatever you intend
the hashtag to signify. Make it “yours” by common usage.
By the same token, if you’ve staked out a hashtag and change your
mind about using it, please don’t sit on it. Stop tweeting that hashtag
yourself, tell your supporters that it’s no longer in use for your
organization, and edit or delete your entries in the hashtag
dictionaries. Set it free! After all, someone else could be doing a Twitter search right now, hoping to be able to use that very same hashtag
for their own organization.