What to Do When Your Hashtag Gets A New Meaning

Sometimes just asking nicely in social media is all you need to do. by Christian Sinclair (@ctsinclair)


  1. On Twitter, hashtags are claimed by whoever uses them them most often and uses them the loudest. Occasionally, an established hashtag gets a new audience with a very different meaning and usually that new audience isn't aware of the prior history of the hashtag. Since, there is no directory or site where you can buy or claim a hashtag as your own, hashtags are basically a messy democracy, but it works...mostly.

  2. For some background, in 2009, hospice and palliative care professionals started to really engage on Twitter. By 2010 #hpm had emerged as the hashtag of choice. #hpc was initially tried but the stream was filled with techies talking about HP computers. Being an inclusive field respectful of all disciplines, it was kind of hard to accept #hpm, but it caught on with a weekly tweetchat and major annual hospice and palliative med/care conferences.
  3. Fast forward to 2015. Twitter is a much more crowded place and hashtags are often put on tweets without looking at who may also be talking on that channel. Now a lot of people may use #hpm once or twice and then never again, so many of these examples below are prety rare and don't crowd out the hospice and palliative care content.
  4. We have had people from Portugal use #hpm since it seemed to be popular in a song title.
  5. We have seen Americans use #hpm as a motivational phrase.
  6. We have seen Koreans use #hpm in a birthday greeting to Sunny.
  7. Hadise, a Turkish pop star, used #hpm for a while.
  8. #hpm is also occasionally used by a builder in Hawaii.
  9. And of course, we cannot forget your Harry Potter Marathons #hpm.
  10. All of these uses of #hpm were very transient, and hospice and palliative med/care content continued being 99% of the stream for #hpm. A nice side effect is that some of these other tribes of interest may learn about hospice and palliative med/care too!

  11. But in early 2015, I noticed that someone was starting to use #hpm fairly frequently. It was Taz, the former professional wrestler. He had a strong presence on Twitter already (over 300k followers!!) and he was beginning a new podcast in 2015 called "Human Podcast Machine."
  12. I started to do a little research. This wasn't a one-off like some of our previous experiences. I could see from the title of the podcast that it was likely he was planning to use #hpm going forward. And his fans love him!
  13. A wrestling celebrity with a big following and passionate fans!? I was a bit nervous that #hpm, this relatively small but important tribe I had helped build up over six years was going to be knocked out with one swift kick to the solar plexus. And all of this was happening two days before our big annual meeting. Thankfully, we were using a different hashtag (#HPM15), but still...I worried.