Jan 8, 2013


Even if you're the most casual social media user in the world, chances are you've seen one of these in your Facebook feed, your Twitter timeline, a YouTube comment or even an email or text message:


So what in the world is it? Why are people mashing together words and hiding them behind these little pound signs?

Well first of all, the pound signs are called hash tags. They were popularized first in Twitter as a way to tag and categorize specific Tweets.

Hash tags are also used to join or monitor a conversation about a specific subject. Have you ever seen a TV show with a little hashtag in the corner? Or a movie trailer? Or a commercial? That is the work of a corporate social media department. They're telling you that if you would like to talk about this show on Twitter, then this is the hash tag you should use. 

Think of it this way: Have you ever read or written a blog post? If so, have you ever noticed or used the tags at the beginning or the end of the post? Authors use tags to put blog posts into specific categories. Like "Vacation" or "The Kids" or "My opinion". That concept has been brought to Twitter in the form of hash tags.

The Bachelor, for example, puts #TheBachelor on the corner of the TV screen. Why? Because they know millions of people watch that dumb show with their phones glued to their hands, and they're all just a second or two away from Tweeting. And when you do, they want you using that hash tag. So when the guy on The Bachelor picks the girl with one arm, the folks at The Bachelor would like to see something like this: "Baaaah! I'm so glad Sean picked the girl with one arm! #TheBachelor"

(By the way, ABC is able to see millions of viewers' reactions to The Bachelor because they successfully use and promote hash tags. I'm guessing they appreciate the window into so many viewers' minds.)

There is no regulation when it comes to hash tags, nor is there a list of approved hash tags. People use them as they please. The most popular and effective hash tags are publicized by people or companies with a big reach (like ABC for example. Or ESPN. Or Apple. Or Miley Cyrus. Or Shaquille O'Neal.).

Hash tags are linked together. That means you can click on a hash tag and instantly see everyone who is using that same tag. For example, if you tweet and use the hash tag #BYU, one of your followers will see that Tweet and have the ability to click on that tag and see everyone who is using the same #BYU hash tag.

The broader the term, the more Tweeters you're likely to see. So while there might be thousands of people using the hash tag #BYU at any given time, there might only be one or two who might use the hash tag #Adamisthecoolest (depending on whether or not my mom is online).

Take this Tweet for example:

This is something I wrote in reference to the National Championship last night. I used the hash tag "MountainsToClimb" to put my Tweet into a specific category. A category I just happened to make up at the moment I wrote the Tweet. So now you can click on that hashtag and see everyone else who has written a Tweet and has used that hashtag.

Likely, there won't be many.

Which brings up another point: Hash tags have become such a mainstay, that people are now using them not only to tag, but communicate. In a passive-aggressive kind of way. So when I use the hashtag #Mountainstoclimb, I'm not necessarily trying to connect with everyone using that same hash tag. Rather, I'm just making a passive comment about what it's like to be a BYU fan.

That's why you're starting to see hash tags bleed over into other forms of communication. Emails, Facebook statuses, texts, etc.

So try it out! Write a tweet right now and use a hash tag. And then look through your timeline, find a hash tag and click on it. See what other people are saying about that thing. If you find someone you think you might like to follow as a result, do it!

Use hash tags to join conversations, find people you might want to follow and brand yourself.

Dec 19, 2012

Tell them about it

After you create a Twitter account, a Facebook Page, a YouTube channel or whatever, the next question is, inevitably, "How do I get followers?" (Or likes, or subscribers, etc.)

There are quite a few answers, but the first one is easy: Tell them. Or ask, if you want to be polite.

Start with your friends. And when I say friends here, I mean real life friends. The living kind.

Chances are you have friends on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. If nothing else, I'm on those sites, and I could easily be your friend (as long as you don't like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). So there--you already have a built-in audience. Tell them to follow you!

Or ask politely.

Then branch out. Invite co-workers, associates, peers, acquaintances... anyone you associate with face-to-face or otherwise. We all have a network, so start there. If you want more followers, ask more people to follow you.

Try this:
  • Send an email to your friends, family, co-workers, or anyone else you think might want to follow you. 
  • Send a Facebook message with the same invitation
  • Ask people, face to face, to follow you (harder to say no when you do it this way). Do it in small meetings or large gatherings. Like Christmas parties.
  • Put your Twitter name on your business card or your email signature, and invite new contacts to follow you.
Don't be embarrassed. We all have to start somewhere. Start building an audience by telling. 

Sep 18, 2009

Using social media to fight political corruption

An amazing thing happened a few days ago. An independent organization used viral video and social media to strike a huge blow against political corruption.

ACORN is an organization meant to assist low-income families with social needs and issues. They help people register to vote, find affordable housing, and secure health care, for example.

ACORN was at the center of a huge voter registration scandal during the 2008 election, and the organization gave millions of dollars to the Obama campaign.

Additionally, they were set to receive billions of dollars in funding from the federal government. $8.5 billion, to be exact.

Their funding was recently cut off, however, due to the unearthing of a massive scandal involving ACORN employees.

Independent activitsts in cities all over the country entered ACORN offices earlier this month with hidden cameras in hopes to uncover corruption within the ACORN organization. Uncover they did, as ACORN employeess offered assistance with prostitution, child prostitution, drugs and other crimes.

Armed with only their hidden cameras, these activists started posting their stories to blogs and on YouTube. As the number of hits and views started climbing, the story gained momentum on a national stage. The work of these social media users has created a huge buzz on the national political landscape.

Eventually, their work led to the House of Representatives voting to cut off funding for ACORN.

To me, this story is another lesson on the power of social media. When we create our own media, we are no longer the passive receptors of other peoples' opinions and agendas. We set our own agendas. We report our own news. We get our own results.

Sep 16, 2009

Five SM accounts everyone needs

You can't avoid social media. Chances are you’ve talked about it with friends, you’ve had meetings about it at work, and you’ve read stories about it in the news. Probably all three, actually... every day.

Social Media channels are becoming the avenue of choice for companies, entertainers, news outlets, politicians and other public figures and entities to share critical information. I’m guessing you don’t want the information to pass you by, and therefore here for your convenience are five SM sites with which you NEED to have an account.

1. Blogger. Blogger is one of the world’s most popular blogging platforms. Creating your own blogger profile will not only enable you to start your own blog, but you’ll be able to easily browse others and leave your own comments. Trust me: Nobody likes anonymous comments.

2. Facebook. Facebook has 300 million users around the world, and it’s time you got on board. Not only is Facebook a site in which you can connect with colleagues and friends, but you’ll be able to view pictures and content from causes, organizations, companies and others through Facebook Pages.

3. Twitter. Twitter, the unique microblogging platform, is probably the fastest-growing social media site in the genre. Millions of people are tweeting interesting things every day, and while you probably don’t care about most of it, I guarantee there are Tweeters out there that you DO care about.

4. YouTube. A YouTube account allows you to both upload your own videos and leave comments on others’ videos. You haven’t really lived until you’ve uploaded your own video to YouTube.

5. LinkedIn. A platform for professional networking, LinkedIn allows you to connect with business associates and colleagues. You can upload resumes, update work experience, join professional groups and lead discussions.

Visit the sites above and create your own free profile. It really won’t take you very long. Link them all to your primary email address, and make sure to upload a real picture of yourself (so you aren’t that annoying, faceless, blank avatar that everyone hates).

Having an account with the social media sites mentioned above will give you access to vast amounts of new information, as well as the ability to leave comments and create your own media.

Sep 2, 2009

Hallelujah! Facebook enables pages to link to Twitter

I wrote a while ago about linking your personal Facebook page to Twitter. It's just another way to simplify the update process, I guess.

Well now Facebook has gone and done us one better.

As one who operates a corporate Facebook Page and Twitter Account, I've often wished the two platforms could be linked like my personal accounts. It becomes cumbersome to post the same information in different channels. My wishes were in vain, however, because it was impossible to link Facebook Pages with Twitter.

Until now.

Thank you Facebook.

Aug 28, 2009

Too much information

Facebook, Twitter, blogging--social media channels like these are opening doors all over the world.

Unfortunately, uninvited guests are starting to step through those doors. Literally.

Articles like this one, in which a man and his family were robbed after an innocent post on Twitter, are starting to pop up all over the Internet.

Mashable recently posted an article in which a "reformed burglar" calls Facebook and Twitter a "Burglar's goldmine."

There are two problems here: We, as social media users, are all too willing to share every bit of information about our lives, and we also tend to accept friend/follow requests from complete strangers without thinking twice.

A good rule of thumb: Don't accept a Facebook friend request from anyone you don't personally know. If you use Facebook for business or promotion consider building a Facebook page rather than using your own personal account.

As far as Twitter is concerned, expect total strangers to start following you. 99% of the time it's completely innocent--people follow you because of your content. Just make sure to remember that your followers aren't just your close, personal friends. Don't reveal any personal information that could put you or your family in jeopardy.

I know the only reason we go on vacation is so we can talk about it (at least it seems that way sometimes), but just try and refrain until you're safely back in your home.


I'm going to try and get this thing humming again. A thousand apologies for not writing anything meaningful in such a long time. Forgiveness, please.

Jul 31, 2009

Ashton and his 3 million followers

I just read the news, hot off the presses, that Ashton Kutcher has reached 3 million followers on Twitter.

Kutcher, the former "Dude, Where's My Car" star, is Twitter's most popular user.

Forgive me, but... why?

Why are people flocking to Ashton Kutcher? What is he tweeting that's so dang interesting? (You can see for yourself at Twitter.com/aplusk.)

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure he's an interesting guy. There's a lot of interesting people out there. But 3 million? Was "That '70s Show" really that popular?

Maybe he's just riding Demi Moore's coattails. Maybe his step-daughter, Tallulah Belle Willis, is texting all her friends and telling them that Ashton is the coolest.

Whatever the case, congratulations to Ashton Kutcher. You've given hope to obscure, b-list celebrities everywhere. Even if people don't like you in movies, they might still like you in Social Media.

Jun 16, 2009

HOW TO: Connect your Twitter feed and Facebook Status

Are you on Facebook, constantly updating your status?

Are you on Twitter, constantly telling everyone what you're doing?

Sick of doing basically the same thing on two different platforms?

Then you sound like someone who needs to make a little connection. You may not know it, but your Twitter feed and your Facebook status can be one and the same--inseparably connected. When you update one, the other follows suit without question.

All you have to do is add the "Twitter" application to your Facebook account.

Here's how: Simply log in to Facebook, search for Twitter and click on the application (Make sure it's the application, not a group or a page). When you land on the application page, click on the button to add it to your profile. You'll be prompted to give your Twitter username and password.

Follow the instructions until the application has been successfully added, and then you'll never have to bounce from site to site again. Just post something to Twitter, and the same message will appear on Facebook.

Pretty sweet, eh? How do you like it?

Jun 15, 2009


You may have noticed I haven’t updated this blog for a while. This is simply because I was nowhere near a computer. I was completely unplugged, disconnected and isolated.

It was great.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been out on the open road, then hiking through beautiful slot canyons and most recently diving through waves at the beach.

And I never even considered Tweeting, updating my Facebook Status or blogging about it. I just enjoyed the moment.

And therein lay an important message: Learn when (and how) to unplug. Not only that, but make a conscious effort to unplug. Online communities are growing exponentially every day, but never let social media destroy your personal social life.

You may not believe me, but I promise you can live without Twitter for a few hours… or days. Enjoy the people who can speak to you face-to-face, and the conversations that can last more than 140 characters.