Healthcare Hashtags … the ones that don’t get published

Healthcare conversations on Twitter are often formed around hashtags. These hashtags enable connections between individuals, foster the effective sharing of ideas, and help entire online communities to form and flourish. Ultimately, we hope that these hashtags are submitted here at Symplur to The Healthcare Hashtag Project where they can become archived, discoverable, and analyzed.

During that submission process you’ll be prompted to provide several bits of information about your hashtag depending on what type it is (regular, tweet chat, conference, or disease). Once done, you’ll press the “Submit” button … but what happens then?

Where’s my healthcare hashtag?!

Many people expect that a submitted hashtag will automatically be published on our site immediately. Many others anticipate that it may take several minutes, hours, or possibly even a day or so before it becomes publicly visible. And when any of these expectations aren’t met, we see a variety of responses …

  • Near immediate resubmission of the hashtag (often two, three, or four times in succession).
  • Querries submitted asking what went wrong, and when they can expect to see their hashtag listed.
  • Frantic communications because of an imminent event (first tweet chat, conference start date, etc.).

The fact is, we don’t publish about 75% of the hashtags submitted to us.  So let me take you behind the scenes of The Healthcare Hashtag Project, and provide a few insights into what happens after you’ve hit that submit button.

After submitting a healthcare hashtag, here’s what happens

First off, let’s address the availability of statistics around the submitted healthcare hashtag.

Once a hashtag is submitted we immediately begin capturing its activity. As a matter of fact, from the moment it’s submitted, we automatically go back and capture as far back as five days or 500 tweets, whichever returns less. So, we want you to know that the conversation around your hashtag is being captured, even if you don’t see it published on our site yet!

Next, let’s talk timing. Probably the number one misconception is that the publishing of a hashtag is automatic. Not so. We routinely receive well in excess of 100 hashtag submissions a week. Sometimes a few dozen in just a single day! And we actually manually vet each and every one of these. Below are just a few of the more common issues reviewed.

  • Is the hashtag already in the system? If so, has something about its information (dates, description, tags, etc.) changed?
  • Is the hashtag healthcare related? Some are on the periphery and very debatable about their inclusion. We need to review tweet streams to determine this.
  • Is the hashtag being used? Often we get hashtags submitted to us that are intended to be used, but as of yet are not. We only accept hashtags that represent active conversations. So get the conversation going first … then submit it to us.
  • Is the hashtag being used by multiple parties in a conversational manner?  Or is it just a marketing broadcast with occasional retweets? We don’t publish these as they are of little value to this project.
  • Is the hashtag already in use and related to one or more different, non healthcare related conversations? Having a fairly clean tweet-stream is imperative.
  • Is it a disease hashtag?  Is it really a definable disease found in the ICD 9?  What bodily system(s) does this disease affect?  What’s a brief definition of this disease?  Is this a rare disease?  Is this an infectious disease?
  • For events and chats, do the dates and times make sense? Is it really a month-long conference? Why is the listed end-date earlier than the listed start-date?  We’ve been given a time, but what time zone is it associated with?
  • Have there been any “tags” (topics) submitted with the hashtag? And if so, are the tags appropriate?

If we don’t have enough information to make a decision, we’ll ask the submitter questions, or we’ll place the submission in a “pending” status and periodically review its development over the ensuing weeks or even months.

Simply said, all this takes a little time to work through.  So please be patient with us  :-)

Submitting a healthcare conference hashtag

Only conference hashtags are automatically published. This is because of time sensitivity and the desire for attendees to monitor and share information about a live event in real time. Not all conference hashtags are submitted to us by organizers in advance(!), and as such we still get some last minute submissions. Our goal is to accommodate the attendee, so we let these submissions sail through.

However, we always quickly follow-up with these auto-published hashtags and make sure that they’re a legitimate healthcare related conference event. If they’re not, we’ll delete them. And if we have repeat offenders submitting hashtags that aren’t really conferences, we blacklist them from The Healthcare Hashtag Project … forever.

So how can I improve my chances of getting a healthcare hashtag published on Symplur?

Most of the reasons why a submitted hashtag isn’t published fall into one or more of the circumstances listed above. But below are a few things that you can do to avoid these obstacles.

Check to see if your preferred healthcare hashtag is already being used.  You can do this just by typing it into the search bar on Twitter and reviewing what shows up.

All too often there are specific goals, grand plans, and high expectations. But I can’t begin to tell you how many times a submitted hashtag is already being used for purposes other than the intended healthcare topic. Worse yet, it’s sometimes used in very unexpected ways that your cause likely doesn’t want to be associated with. Just a couple days ago I had to deny a well intentioned vascular related hashtag because 95% of the conversaion on that stream had to do with an awards ceremony for the pornography industry. The resulting tweet-stream and statistics on our site would therefore be meaningless, and the intended community would be sure to fail to connect and flourish.  Had the submitter done some homework ahead of time, they certainly would have chosen a different hashtag for their healthcare community.

Once you know your healthcare hashtag has a clean tweet-stream, start using it and begin to engage others! A hashtag that isn’t being used, is unable to be published. And a hashtag that’s only being used by you isn’t able to be published either. It’s as simple as that!  And mere retweets are ignored, we’re looking for conversations.

Too many times we’ve had healthcare hashtags submitted to us with the best intentions, but with little or no follow through.  Or it may be a one-way blast of tweets (often commercial) that never engages others into a meaningful conversation.  Consequently, a hashtag that isn’t being used, is unable to be published. Tweet chats included. We don’t take this lightly, and try to give hashtags a chance.  Often we’ll review tweet streams over the preceding weeks or even months.  And, as stated earlier, we may decide to place the hashtag in a pending status where we’ll monitor it’s development and make a future determination.  However, about 90% of those we place in pending are eventually rejected.

So get your conversation going first … and then submit your hashtag to us for review.

While submitting your healthcare hashtag, be careful with the details.  Choose “tags” (topics) carefully. These are the core subject matter that your hashtag is addressing.  They help us to understand your hashtag, but more importantly help to automatically connect it to similar conversations.  This is where discovery of other like-minded individuals and related conversations become empowering!  Be brief and specific, and recognize that each term needs to stand alone.  Tags like “disease”, “awareness”, or “anything related to patient safety” won’t  help as much as tags like “heart disease”, “diabetes awareness”, and “patient safety”.

For tweet chats to make it to our calendar of regularly scheduled chats, we need a clear pattern of a planned chat scheduled (i.e., every Thursday, the 3rd Monday of each month, etc.) along with a time and time zone.

Help us to maintain the quality and usefulness of the Healthcare Hashtag Project

We always appreciate and want to accomodate those who submit healthcare hashtags to us. But in order for The Healthcare Hashtag Project to be useful, we need to be sure that we carefully evaluate these submissions, and only publish those that, once captured, add value to the healthcare community. If we don’t, then it diminishes the worth of this project for the many that depend on Symplur for useful, reliable information, and for meaningful analytics of many healthcare discussions on the social web.  So please consider the points shared above, and help this project to grow.

One of the beautiful things about the new web is that it has flattened the landscape for sharing ideas. Large organizations and single individuals can have an equal voice. Twitter remains the epicenter of the online healthcare conversation, and hashtags continue to be the connective tissue that binds the many healthcare discussions taking place, including the communities that surround them.

Be part of that and plan your healthcare hashtag wisely.

Thomas M. Lee, B.S., NHA - @tmlfox

Spends days connecting dots in healthcare social media. Co-founder of Symplur and The Healthcare Hashtag Project. Curious by nature.

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