So, here comes a rant-ette.
I love twitter. I have made friends, got jobs, built my cycling career and above all followed women’s cycling because of it, it’s completely transformed the sport for me. But right now I’m practically having an embolism watching how teams, media and everyone really uses hashtags, and it’s something that happens so often, right now I actually want the UCI to mandate official hashtags.
So when a race is on, I check out the race twitter (if there is one) and use the hashtag they use. And a good race makes it really simple – they plaster it on the website, on their twitter, in their press releases, at the team managers meeting (thank you, Aviva Women’s Tour & Energiewacht Tour!). Ideally they chose the hashtag understanding that social media has character limits, and make it short & easy to remember (Race initials plus last 2 digits of the year! Ideally just the race initials! Everyone knows what year it is!) but ultimately, it’s their choice, they run the race… and ideally everyone uses it.
It seems like every team, media outlet, fan, makes up their own. I am using the Amgen Tour of California as an example just because that’s today’s race, and admittedly #amgenToCwomen is not snappy, but it’s what they’re using, so why am I seeing everything from #AToC, #AToCwomen, #AToC15, #amgentourofcalifornia and worse, #amgenToCwomensrace, which is just crazy, because why make a bad hashtag LONGER? And that’s just things I’ve seen today from teams and media, who knows what else is out there?
So why’s it important? Well, this race isn’t streamed live, and while Tour Tracker is fantastic, lots of fans are trying to watch on twitter, and if everyone uses the official hashtag, we can end up with a really cool stream of live updates, photos, glimpses, a crowdsourced curation that helps us follow everyone, AND find more great accounts to follow. It’s the nearest thing to livestreaming, and it can be glorious, and really make the race come alive – and help people form a real-life and online community around a race.
On the other hand, a team/media account that just makes up their own hashtag is deliberately isolating their followers from all the other action, and limiting what their fans can see, and that’s a shame. I get around it by trying to pull as many different accounts that are live tweeting into my constantly-updated women’s racing twitter list, but when hashtags are a thing, I wish I didn’t have to!
I need to be clear, I am not pointing a finger at anyone in particular here, and I do think the race has a responsibility to be communicating as well as possible, and also keeping a keen eye out. I love how fans like @petervdveen actively try to help by telling people the official hashtag – and I love the people who start using it the official one when they’re told… but please, PLEASE! if you’re at a race and want to tweet, PLEASE just see what the race is using, and if there’s not an official #, go with initials, keep it short and try to coordinate. Thank you!
(Off to try deep breathing and a moment of zen)