Corraling the Hashtag: Q&A with Geoff Clendenning of Hashcaster
Almost as soon as event organizers began to see the value of using hashtags to organize tweets related to an event, applications began to pop up to make the information sharing more user-friendly. Thus, we've seen Twitterfalls, hashtag archivers and tweet curation platforms with varying degrees of adoption by event professionals.
Hashcaster is a platform that combines several of these tools. It purports to help event organizers manage their hashtag community, capture valuable user generated content, measure and monetize their audience. This month, Hashcaster won the award for "Most Innovative Social Media Technology" at the West Coast Social Media Awards.
I recently asked Hashcaster CEO Geoff Clendenning a few questions about the platform.
What is the basic idea behind Hashcaster?
Hashcaster is a real-time Twitter curation platform for event marketers and organizers. Hashcaster was developed to address two fundamental problems facing both event organizers and users on Twitter:
- A trending hashtag is very noisy and chaotic environment. Many thousands of tweets can be shared on a hash tag as it trends over a two or three day period. With only a single account or Twitter handle event organizers have a hard time making themselves and their sponsors heard among all this noise. Hashcaster solves this problem by curating the Twitter stream, capturing great crowd sourced content from the hashtag, organizing it into an easily accessible format and making it available through three event branded channels: on the web, in show on a Twitter wall and on mobile devices.
- From the end-user perspective, participating in a rapidly trending hashtag can be like drinking from a fire hose! Keeping up with thousands of tweets and hundreds of photos and links is impossible. Most users will miss 90% of this crowd sourced content as they go about their day. Hashcaster solves this problem by capturing all this content and organizing it into an easily digestible format that the user can visit at anytime to keep up with all the tweets, news, photos and videos created at the event.
The Hashcaster platform addresses these two problems by performing three primary functions:
- The system continually monitors a hashtag or multiple hashtag Twitter streams in real-time, capturing photos and videos and generating “stories” from links included by users in their tweets. Photos and videos are organized in easily accessible galleries and stories are placed in categories to facilitate discovery.
- The platform also uses sophisticated analytic algorithms to continually evaluate the Twitter stream, identifying “Top Influencers” and “Top Contributors” during the event. Both of these analytics are used to display Top Influencers and Contributors on the event’s Hashcaster website, thus making it easier for users to connect with sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and thought leaders at an event.
- Finally, the platform provides the event organizer with sophisticated metrics that allow them to quantifiably measure the impact of their event, something the event industry has never been able to do reliably before.
What are the benefits Hashcaster brings to events?
There are numerous advantages to implementing Hashcaster for both event attendees and event organizers:
- Stop worrying about all those tweets your missing and instead keep up with all the photos, videos or stories on Hashcaster.
- Easily identify and connect with top influencers at the event.
- Be recognized as a top influencer or contributor when you contribute great content to Hashcaster.
- Share important crowd sourced stories with your own social networks (Twitter, Facebook & Linkedin)
- Get you name in lights on the Hashcaster Twitter wall as a Top Influencer or Contributor.
- Acquire new Twitter followers.
- Exert your event brand on Twitter and engage your attendees and the broader non-attending audience on Hashcaster.
- Foster interaction and engagement among attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and speakers; facilitate relationship building among attendees.
- Viral promotion of your event before, during and after as users engage and share content posted on your Hashcaster site.
- Secure new sources of advertising revenue through metrics that quantifiably demonstrate the value of the event to exhibitors and sponsors.
- Better engage the 85% of Twitter users who are listeners not content producers.
- Build a strong online community around your event brand by promoting and engaging thought leaders. Grow the number of people following your event Twitter account.
Finally, the results achieved by Hashcaster for our clients are impressive; typically event organizers can expect a 20% to 40% engagement rate on their branded Hashcaster site. This means that 20% to 40% of visits to the site result in some form of engagement including: clicking on a story link, following a user, retweeting, or replying to a contributor.
How does it compare to the "Twitter Fall"?
The “Twitter Fall” is a very linear experience. Typically, you will see a tower of tweets based on a hashtag or twitter account that cascades down showing each tweet in the stream. The downside of this approach are two fold:
- Visually the vertical format is boring and difficult to read (the human eye does not like vertical cascading content)
- More importantly this type of Twitter experience is simply showing each Tweet as they come in. So you get a lot of crowd irrelevant content i.e. “@user meet me on level two for coffee, luv ya! #event”. To everyone but that particular user, this is not interesting.
The Hashcaster Twitter Wall is a very different experience. Hashcaster uses the meta data collected in real-time from the hash tag community to determine who and what is most important to display. Thus the Hashcaster Twitter Wall displays three panels (see below):
- A ticker tape style display of the hashtag stream. This stream can be filtered to include all tweets or a specific sub-set of tweets (i.e. no retweets, just original tweets). The horizontal scrolling of the tweets is also much easier to read.
- The upper right hand panel displays the names and Twitter handles of the “Top Contributors” at the event. This list is updated throughout the event in real-time. More than once we’ve witnessed attendees scurry up to the Twitter Wall to take a quick photo of their name in the Top Contributor list, they of course then share that photo on Twitter.
- The last and largest panel is reserved for the most important information in the Twitter stream. Here you’ll see tweets from the top influencers, advertisers, VIPS and the event organizer. You’ll also see photos appear in real-time as they are added to the Hashcaster gallery.
How will Twitter's introduction of Hashtag Pages, which categorize tweets, media and users of an event hashtag, affect Hashcaster?
We welcome Twitter’s test of Hashtag pages and believe it validates what we’ve implemented with twenty plus clients over the past year. Twitter’s experiment with Hashtag pages as a landing page for driving eyeballs from television commercials to the web makes a great deal of sense. The intersection of Twitter and TV as complementary media partners has great potential.
Its great to see that others are recognizing, as we did two years ago, that the hashtag is what really makes Twitter unique among all the other social media platforms. The hashtag was created by the media (users) and not by Twitter. It’s the only open source community aggregator which, if leveraged correctly, can be much more powerful than the walled garden approach taken by other social media platforms.
The fact that it’s open source means that everyone must play together in the same sandbox. Even Twitter cannot control the hashtag and they know if they ever tried, they would destroy Twitter itself.
We’re very happy to be providing a leading platform in this open ecosystem targeting a market that has very specific needs to which Hashcaster can bring unique, engaging and innovative solutions.
Does Hashcaster allow moderation of tweets by event organizers?
The Hashcaster platform provides both automated and user managed moderation. The first layer of moderation is a SPAM filter that restricts tweets from identified spammers from being posted in the event’s Hashcaster environment (Hashcast web site, mobile app and Twitter wall). Beyond the SPAM filters, the event organizer can block specific users either pro-actively or in real-time during the event. Finally, the event organizer can select to remove a story, photo or video from their site if it is deemed inappropriate.
What is the price range for those interested?
While in beta the Hashcaster platform is implemented as a turnkey solution for our clients. As such we charge a service fee based on the number of attendees at the event and the length of the active curation period. In all cases these services include hosting of the event’s Hashcaster site and in show Twitter wall, moderation of the Twitter stream and post event analytics. All event Hashcaster sites are hosted for a full year beyond the curation period, providing the event organizer with a powerful tool for promoting the event to attendees and sponsors for the following year.
When out of beta Hashcaster will open up the platform, delivering a SaaS (Software as a Service) model that will allow events of all sizes to create, deploy and manage their own Hashcasts from an online dashboard.
How can people learn more?
People can learn more about Hashcaster by visiting http://www.hashcaster.com and downloading our White Paper or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed for Sound n' Sight.