Twitter Tip TuesdayIt’s Twitter Tip Tuesday — every Tuesday we’ll focus on one Twitter Tip and show you how to integrate it into your social media strategy. This week we recommend that if you’re going to use a hashtag or partake in a Twitter chat, you should explain the meaning of the hashtag so that people who are unfamiliar with the topic can understand what you’re talking about.

Under normal circumstances, the only people who can see your tweets are the people who are following you. There are several, notable exceptions to this rule. One is when people happen to find your Twitter handle, or your tweets, through Twitter search. Another exception is when you include a hashtag in your updates. Anyone who happens to be following that hashtag (either as a standalone topic or as a more formalized link to a Twitter chat) can also see your tweets — whether they’re following you or not.

While including hashtags in your tweets is a great way to expand the pool of potential viewers of those messages, sometimes it can be a little confusing to people who are unfamiliar with the hashtag to follow along with the conversation. Of course, by clicking any hashtag, you’ll instantly be linked to the entire tweet stream on that tag. Sometimes it’s easy to decipher what the topic of conversation is, like #2012Olympics, for example. In other instances, like #gbl, it’s not so clear what the topic is about.

A Couple of Simple Solutions

Twylah

In the latter example, above, #gbl is a vibrant discussion on the topic of “games-based learning.” If you already knew what this topic was about (it’s been around a while and has lots of current tweets on the subject), then you would feel right at home joining any Twitter conversations already in progress that contained the #gbl hashtag. You might feel a little alienated though, and be reluctant to join a conversation that includes this hashtag, if you don’t know what the tag refers to.

If you want to welcome more people into your hashtag-based conversations, here’s a couple of suggestions. Every now and then in the tweet stream on that topic, tweet something like, “For any newcomers who’d like to join in, we’re chatting about games-based learning. Join the conversation by including #gbl in your tweets.” This provides newcomers with the exact meaning of the hashtag, and provides them an easy entry point into the conversation. Seed your conversation with this tweet (or modified versions of it) periodically, so that newcomers know what the conversation is about without having to read the previous 20 tweets to try to decipher what “#gbl” (or whatever esoteric hashtag you’re using) stands for.

Another, more intricate solution would be to create a Twitter landing page dedicated to a given hashtag. You could create a separate page on your blog with information relevant to the hashtag you’re promoting. Alternatively, you could use free services like Twylah or Paper.li to create a Twitter landing page defining what your hashtag stands for, along with links and references to other people using that hashtag. Just as in the example, above, you’d post references and links to your landing page throughout the chat. Let other members know that your links are for the purpose of helping newcomers to get in on the conversation too.

Have any great Twitter Tips that you think would be a good fit for Twitter Tip Tuesday? Then we want to hear from you!