Why it is necessary to have a commenting policy for #Hashtag chats!


I am not sure what Payne Stewart has to do with #blogchat, but it was a part of a verbal spat during the Twitter chat on Sunday, June 15, 2015. I was sitting watching television while following the chat when this little verbal disagreement broke out. Nothing more than a few heated words, but still this raised a concern for me. Why, I have help clients build communities using hashtag chats. I would hate for something like this to unfold during one of my client’s Twitter chats…but it could happen.

This weekly chat has been ongoing for a few years via Twitter, and it was started by Mack Collier. Mack, as the moderator of the chat, was a bit upset! Many of the chat attendees were calling the person who wrote the post above a troll and claiming that many of her comments as abusive. After reviewing the transcript…I did not see anything too abusive other the phrase “Shut-Up.” None-the-less…there was a disagreement, requests to contact Twitter for an abuse complaint, and maybe some hurt egos.

Bottom line…one person was not well liked and it was pretty apparent. This person kept on interjecting their opinion and it was perceived as abuse. So what is this a big deal?

Well, let’s ask a simple question…what is the policy of this chat? Specifically the commenting policy? And can anyone impose a commenting/chat policy when using a hashtag chat on Twitter?

This leads to an ownership question…who owns the rights to impose any chat/commenting policy inside a Twitter hashtag chat? Think about it…no one really owns the rights to this chat? Yes, no, thoughts?

There is no where to register a hashtag, claim ownership, or even purchase the use of a hashtag.

From TheVerge.com on Feb 7, 2013
“The hashtag isn’t a technology or even a platform service like the Facebook Poke. It’s more of an organizing principle, a way of opting into a larger public discussion. To get metaphorical: It’s more about the signal than the wire. It’s a good idea and it works. Everyone should be able to use it. And to Twitter’s credit, it’s not trying to lock down the hashtag. It hasn’t filed any patents or groused about other services ripping them off.

In part, that’s because it can’t. Twitter Inc. didn’t invent the hashtag, and it wasn’t even the first to use them in a tweet. By all accounts, that honor falls to Chris Messina, who picked up the hashtag shorthand from IRC protocols, and started using it as a way to organize discussions on Twitter in August of 2007. It didn’t even need any new tech: a simple character-string search would surface all the tweets with a certain tag. But the act of writing “#SXSW” instead of “SXSW” was enough to turn a jumble of search results into a meaningful, intentional conversation. At the time, there were plenty of skeptics, but the last five years have shown it to be a remarkably powerful trick.”

Forbes is reporting that brands might have a legitimate claim to a hashtag:
“Anyone with a legitimate claim to require targeted rights to a particular hashtag can secure that term for commercial exclusivity. If it’s used as a brand name – or a slogan related to a branded product or service – the hashtag then becomes protected from exploitation by other service providers in the same industry (as part of a phrase, like #ImLovinIt, but never alone). Even trademark protection won’t stop general users, and worse, spammers, from jumping on any trendy tag that gains momentum, but at least that carefully constructed brand identity is a little safer from unscrupulous competitors.”

What to do?
This is why if you are a brand or organization leading a Twitter based hashtag chat…there needs to be a section of your social commenting policy that addresses how to manage these chats.

We have always encouraged organizations leading hashtag chats to have a landing page with information about the chat, mainly for promotion purposes. But, now we should also include the commenting policy and rules for this chat on this same page.

Bottom line, you will not be able to force anyone from posting during a hashtag chat on Twitter. Managing a situation with un-wanted conversation can help, especially if there conflicting conversations taking place simultaneously. A good policy will help during these situations. Now it is time to go update all our social media policies and play-books.

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