Though it may be hard for my students to believe, I was once a college student and attended classes. I reliably attended and those classes were reliably held where they were supposed to be according to my schedule. Without fail, my political science class met in Bentley Hall. It didn’t matter if we were discussing elections, economic recovery, or political infrastructures. Every day I knew exactly where to go to find that class and the other students with whom I was learning.
But what if the class suddenly moved? How would I know which of hundreds of classrooms on campus it moved to for the afternoon? Students may be left searching for the new classroom and get separated, missing part of the lecture.
As student affairs conference season rapidly approaches, hashtags specific to conferences have popped up once again on Twitter. Each time I see this happen, I think of ACUHO-I’s Director of Marketing and Communication, James Baumann, who made the decision that year-round, the association will rally at the hashtag #ACUHOI. Such a simple, understated decision, this choice means members of the organization never have to wonder if they are missing the conversation. They know where to find others who want to share and converse with them. Every conference, webinar, and publication is shared through this universal hashtag, also allowing those who may not have known an event or discussion was happening to participate.
But if the organization changed hashtags for individual conferences or events, people would be lost. How would I know what the hashtag is if I’m not in attendance at the Living Learning Conference or at the virtual roundtable, whose topics change monthly? By the time a participant finds the new hashtag, opportunities to engage have diminished. And if two hashtags prevail – Conference12 and Conference2012 for example – how do people at the conference connect and how do those engaging from afar choose?
ACUHO-I’s use of #ACUHOI fosters a true backchannel, one that ebbs and flows to be sure, but also one that consistently allows people to be a part of the conversation and is representative of the lifecycle of the organization.
It would be an uphill battle to have every organization view their backchannel in this same way; I’m hopeful moving forward others start to adopt this best practice to consolidate conversation.