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Hashtags in the Enterprise

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Cisco Employee

As some of you may know, I oversee the Quad Services Architecture team, where we have been working with customers for the past two and half years to help them with their social collaboration deployment and strategy.  This includes the best ways to use hashtags within their enterprise.  From a benefits perspective, there are two main drivers:

  • One is around making context more easily searchable, which is enabled by the ability to specifically search for hashtags (in Quad, this is done by using the following syntax in the search box: "tag:tagname")
  • The other is around filtering.  Clay Shirky, a professor from NYU, made the famous claim that it's not an information overload problem we have, but rather a filter problem.  It's a valid point - and one that Quad addresses by providing the ability to have customized activity stream filters - including filters based on hashtags. 

So those are the two functional areas within Quad that hashtags rear their head - search and activity stream.  From a more tactical use perspective here are some ways that we've seen hashtags used:

-Specific Initiatives.  Two primary vehicles for physically collecting/aggregating information in Quad are via Posts or Communities.  Sometimes you might have things that span across mutliple posts or even span across multiple communities.  In this use case, it makes sense to define an appropriate hashtag and add to any related post/micro-post.  Example - a recent hot topic in our group is around Quad and Mobility - how Quad can be used on iPhone / iPad, how that works in conjunction with the full web version of Quad, etc.  We are going to have mobility related items at our various customers plus there will be updates from the product team on the future of mobility.  A good approach would be for us to define #QuadMobility as the hashtag we use to tag any posts or content related to mobility for any customer or product team update.  Then for those of us interested in this topic, we would simply set up a filter in our activity stream for the tag #QuadMobility.  So for your own purposes, you would need to consciously think about what tags / initiatives make sense.  And it's an ongoing process since the need for new hashtags will always be popping up. 

-Specific Action Routing. One of the more interesting ways to use hashtags is to route information to a specific team / group.  For example, we have had customers use the tag #QuadFeedback in a post to report any feedback / questions to the core team.  What I love about this is that you don't have to worry about remembering what page or community to go to to provide the feedback.  You can simply create a quick micropost with the question or issue and include that hashtag and then on the other end, there would be a group of individuals monitoring for that tag in their own activity stream.  This takes the filtering mechanism of the hashtags and transforms it into something that's more of an alert to someone keeping a lookout for that special hashtag.

-Activity Stream "Tweet chats". If you're familiar with Twitter I'm you've seen how various conferences and events promote their own hashtag so that while people are in the conference, they can all discuss using the hashtag - and then through filtering, it's like a chat around that topic.  The same thing can be done in Quad.  Our team did this recently for an all-hands meeting - where my team used the hashtag #2012CollabAllHands so that we could talk about our thoughts on what was being presented by our group's leadership.  Some people ask why you don't just do this in a chat room.  A chat room falls short on a couple levels.  One is data persistence - when this is done within Quad, it's retrievable by us at anytime - doesn't close out when we shut down the window as many chat programs do - so we can refer back to it.  The other is the ability to quickly add images or other docs to the posts.  So we can take snapshots of slides that are being presented and paste into our chat for discussion / analysis.  Lots of possibilities with these - but what's interesting is that it takes an asynchronous method of collaboration (micro posts) and utilizes it as a synchronous method because we are timeboxing the discussion.

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