Hands off our hashtag! That's the message from Burlington's Twitter users after Bloomberg News began using an online sorting label associated with the Queen City.
With just a few keystrokes, interested Twitter users can find the latest breaking news and most mundane details of Burlington life. But Tuesday, Bloomberg News began using the popular 'BTV' hashtag to engage its viewers in a real-time conversation as it aired an interview with President Barack Obama.
Many Vermonters tried to turn the conversation back to sunsets, maple syrup and craft beer; others accused the business news outlet of a hostile takeover.
"Sometimes people think there are no manners in a digital world," said Daniel Post Senning. The great-great grandson of famous etiquette writer Emily Post literally wrote the book on online decorum, which is expected to be released next spring.
Senning says most of the etiquette guidelines that apply in daily life apply to social media. He says new manners are constantly forming as the world and technology continue to evolve. "In this particular case, we're talking about some new territory, there's not necessarily a rule," he said.
No one can copyright or lay claim to a hashtag. Use essentially determines purpose. This isn't the first-time others co-opted Burlington's tag, and experts say residents will likely prevail again even while up against a multi-media giant.
Social Media Marketing consultant Gahlord Dewald says the city faced similar dilemmas when Bahrain Television and Bulgarian Television adopted '#BTV.' Tuesday, he watched the current discussion unfold from his Howard St. office.
"I was like, 'Oh no, everyone's going to get good and worked up about this'," said Dewald.
By his count, a majority of the tweets containing '#BTV' and posted as the presidential interview aired referenced Burlington, not Bloomberg. "In many respects, I actually think it's great that Bloomberg is using our hashtag," he said, "that tactic itself of using Twitter to promote discussion, that's effective, the '#BTV' for them, so far I don't see the data."
Dewald says Burlington businesses may actually cash-in on greater exposure. He said no one can own a hashtag, but as long as Burlington residents continue to use the label in Twitter conversations, their online space should remain theirs.
Bloomberg spokespeople told WCAX they were aware of Burlington's usage of the hashtag, but didn't forsee Tuesday's backlash. They said they're sorry for upsetting some, but do plan on using the label in the future in order to promote special content.
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