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The Twitterverse and the Huskers

I think more people were sitting in the rain in Lincoln than actually bothered to attend the Michigan spring game. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
I think more people were sitting in the rain in Lincoln than actually bothered to attend the Michigan spring game. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

If you happened to watch Michigan's spring game on BTN (while waiting for Noah's Ark to begin boarding on 10th Street in Lincoln), you may have noticed that Michigan had painted "#GOBLUE" on the 25 yard line. Michigan thus joined a number of sports franchises who promote "social media" on the field. What's this "social media" thing? Personally, I hate the term; the only people I hear use the term are web marketing "experts" who follow the latest trends. In a nutshell, it's a bucket term that encompasses all of the new ways we communicate electronically. First it was e-mail, then message boards and web sites. Then it was MySpace. Now, it's Facebook and Twitter. (And for Google employees only, Google+.) If you are on the bleeding edge, there's Foursquare and Pinterest.

But how prevalent are these tools? Many people are on Facebook, but not as many people actively use Twitter. The two tools are different; Facebook is more conversational IMHO, while Twitter is more of an immediate broadcast venue. Though conversations can ensue on Twitter, if you caught my Twitter war with KOZN radio's Mike'l Severe last's a venue that's better for broadcasting information. People use it for different reasons: some people use it to interact with famous people, whether it's Justin Bieber or athletes, while others use it as a news source. I personally use it more as a news source than anything; I don't really follow any athlete or star other than Bo Pelini...and he doesn't really use Twitter. I know a lot of fans follow Husker players on Twitter; I personally don't find 99% of what the players tweet about to be all that interesting. But that's just me. Heck, this morning Brian Rosenthal remarked about the number of Husker fans who suddenly follow basketball prospect Jahlil Okafor on Twitter. It also drew this admonishment from the athletic department, who noted that fans who interact with recruits on Twitter could be violating NCAA rules. All the more reason to me to not follow these guys on Twitter.

And when a player DOES say something interesting, someone surely will retweet it...and I'll probably get it anyway.

As a news source, I find Twitter amazing. Take last year when Osama Bin Laden was finally killed. The news media broke in to let us know something big had happened, but wouldn't/couldn't get enough confirmation to run with it. But 30 seconds on Twitter made it clear that the "buzz" was all about bin Laden. Sports guys do it all the time; the Tim Miles hiring broke on Twitter and spread from there. Sure, you get bogus reports from time to time, but it's how news breaks now-a-days.

Power users of Twitter frequently use hashtags to help categorize their tweets; it can work well in situations like conferences. But my experience is that more people misunderstand and misuse hashtags than use them. They consume valuable space in a tweet, so overuse is far worse than non using them. Most hashtags are not actually words, but rather abbreviations or concatenated words. Twitter searches ignore the # sign, so there isn't a difference between #huskers and huskers. I've seen some Tweets by neophytes that have multiple hashtags that really aren't hashtags. BTN is one of the worst offenders; they use wacky hashtags that nobody understands or use their own BTN Twitter accounts in lieu of the school's name. (I.E. "Who's anxious for the @BTN_Nebraska at @BTN_OhioState game?)

The #goblue hashtag that Michigan rolled out is an interesting use of Twitter; supposedly 1500 Tweets used the hashtag on Saturday. Is that a big number? Hard to say; it certainly helped Michigan follow what people were tweeting about the game, but did it really spur a conversation? I'm skeptical. Most of the time when I see hashtags, it's merely a way to add a snarky comment to a tweet. I really have only seen a few examples of truly useful and relevant hashtags.

What's your experience? Do you use Twitter? If so, how much and do you really use #hashtags? Is displaying hashtags and Twitter handles on the field just a fad or is it the newest evolution in sports discussions online?