On Tuesday I did a bit of an experiment and did some visualisation of the tweets sent to the #NZQT hashtag. This prompted a discussion on Twitter about the role of hashtags and who is using what, in relation to the election:
This is just one of many Tweets in the threat. But between the three of us we know of the following hashtags being used or promoted for the election, and politics: #NZPOL, #NZVOTES, #Vote2014nz, #votenz2014, #decision14. All of theses and we are still nearly 3 months out from election day.
Twitter has in the past been a very user driven service. The retweet button was added after users initially created the RT in front of a manual retweet. Hashtags themselves are a user created information tracking and amalgamation system.
However, of these five hashtags, three of them come from media organisations, TV3 is promoting #decision14, TVOne is using #vote2014nz and Radio New Zealand’s The Wireless is using #votenz2014. The other two are created and used by Twitter users. This is going to result in a diffusion of the conversation, with different users using different hashtags, all talking about the same thing.
Now I fully get that different media outlets want to try and associate their brand with a hashtag and attempt to focus their viewers interactions into one place. However, all of the hashtags they have chosen have one major issue with them, they are all too long. Twitter has a 140 character limit. Which for initial tweets is generally enough, but with fast paced conversations, with multiple users involved, handles can suddenly take up a large amount of those characters, so the last thing you want to do is sacrifice another 2 or 3 characters to a hashtag.
Add to this, as Lamia points out in the above conversation, there is only one election this year. Unlike places like the US where there are multiple elections each year. So there is no need for the full year it in, or even a year at all really. The end result of this proliferation of hashtags will be that people focus on one. Considering that #nzvotes fits with the currently, actively used #nzpol and #nzqt, I suspect that #nzvotes will become the default hashtag.