When people follow our Twitter feed, we try to acknowledge their support of our work by Tweeting a “welcome” message back to them. Usually that welcome message also includes a suggestion to contact us with any questions or suggestions. We want our readers to know that communication with us is a two-way street.
Recently, a social media expert (Scott Allen Graham –
@ScottGraham9 – of TogetherDigital.org) responded to our “welcome” message: @WhiteRoseUSA I would try to use more highly used and search hashtags in your messages.
That is a great idea. For readers who are unfamiliar with the way hashtags work: When writing a 140-character message, if you place a “pound sign” # in front of a word, that turns the word into an instant ‘metatag’. (Note: No spaces! #HappyBirthday instead of #Happy Birthday; the latter would be sorted as #Happy only.)
For example, we have established #CWRS14 as the hashtag for our 2014 conference. If you ever want to see everything that has ever been Tweeted (by us, or by anyone else) on the subject of the second annual White Rose Conference, summer 2014, simply search for #CWRS14 in Twitter or on Facebook, and all messages bearing that hashtag will appear.
Hashtags are also used for so-called “Twitter chats” – generally an online discussion by and among a limited number of participants that can later be read from start to finish by searching for that hashtag. But most often, hashtags collect all Tweets regarding a specific topic.
There are a couple of considerations to keep in mind regarding hashtags:
- Should be relatively short. #CenterForWhiteRoseStudies would take 26 of the precious 140 characters allowed in a Tweet. Too long!
- Should not be too narrow. If a search returns only a handful of Tweets, it’s too narrow.
- Should not be too broad. #Holocaust is a perfect example. There are so many Tweets with that hashtag that it becomes difficult to navigate what is meaningful to a specific conversation.
- Should avoid duplication or confusion. We face this issue ourselves: #WhiteRose is almost exclusively used for spaghetti, soccer, Yorkshire, or condolence notices. So it is not appropriate for our work.
I took Scott’s suggestion quite seriously and began researching how our colleagues use hashtags. Instead of creating our own hashtags, I wished to adopt whatever conventions were already in place.
So I read the Twitter feeds for: US Holocaust Memorial Museum (
@HolocaustMuseum); Shoah Foundation ( @USCShoahFdn); Harold Marcuse (@German_History); Anti-Defamation League (@ADL_National); UN Holocaust Program (@UNHOP); Yad Vashem (@yadvashem); Yad Vashem in the UK (@guardianofmem); the UK’s Holocaust Centre (@HolocaustCentre); the Anne Frank Center ( @AnneFrankCenter); and, Simon Wiesenthal Center (@simonwiesenthal).
To my surprise, I learned that there are no hashtag conventions for Holocaust education! The Shoah Foundation (and no one else) uses #VisualHistoryArchives when posting information about their collection of video testimonies. Occasionally one of the above Twitter accounts will add the # symbol before the words Holocaust, Shoah, or Genocide but not often, and certainly not regularly.
The UN Holocaust Program does consistently use #PeaceDay for the International Day of Peace, which occurred this year on September 21. And Jewish organizations like ADL and Yad Vashem marked posts related to the High Holy Days with e.g. #YomKippur or #Sukkot or #RoshHashanah, usually with variations on orthography, like #RoshHashana.
And about half the time, general political terms would have hashtags: #Syria, #Iran, #Roma. But there is nothing to indicate that these posts are related to Holocaust topics, so they become lost in the larger discussion. (See points 3 and 4 above.)
I also recognized that most of us who Tweet on Holocaust-related topics frequently are posting ‘inspirational’ quotes or comments. What we are doing is neither popular culture (The Amazing Race, Mentalist), nor business (accounting, product-related), nor political.
Keeping all of the above in mind, I hereby propose the following as foundational for Twitter hashtag conventions for those of us in Holocaust education. Please comment with additions or objections below this post.
- #Shoah (instead of #Holocaust – shorter)
- #KZLager for concentration camps
- #DPLager for Displaced Persons camps
- #WhRose for White Rose resistance (I checked, and there are NO TWEETS using that abbreviation!)
- #ChristlP (Christoph Probst)
- #SophieScholl (currently in use, good)
- #HansScholl (currently in use, good)
- #AlexSchm (Alexander Schmorell)
- #GiselaSch (Gisela Schertling)
- #KathSch (Katharina Schüddekopf)
- #HDohrn (Harald Dohrn)
- #SusiHirzel (Susanne Hirzel)
- #HansHirzel (Hans Hirzel)
- #MEickemeyer (Manfred Eickemeyer)
- #WmGeyer (Wilhelm Geyer)
- #JosefSngn (Josef Söhngen)
- #GFeuerle (Gerhard Feuerle)
Other resistance (beginnings of list only):
- #Niemoeller or #Niemöller (Twitter sees them the same – currently in use, good)
- #Bonhoeffer (currently in use, good)
- #Stauffenberg (currently in use, good)
- #RWallenberg (to distinguish from other Wallenberg hashtags)
- (Essentially: Remembering to turn places into hashtags!)
Re places: Any thoughts regarding distinguishing between e.g. Augsburg now, and Augsburg during the Third Reich?
We will use the above (with your suggested revisions and additions) in all future Tweets. (And perhaps even go back and edit existing Tweets…)
We hope this will improve the usefulness of social media for the historical process!