Dallas celebrates — local media misses an opportunity

This is a story about the value of the hashtag, that little Twitter phenomenon that everybody seems to get except media companies. Nobody seems to understand that Twitter will sell you a hashtag, which gets you an ad with a link at the top of the display on whatever software is being used to view Twitter searches. This is a significant opportunity for anybody, but especially for media companies covering a big event.

The Mavs sing 'We are the champions' from the balcony of the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Photo courtesy AP via the Denver Post

We had ourselves a huge (300,000 people estimated) public celebration this morning of the Dallas Mavericks victory in the NBA Finals, and it all began with a little parade. The hashtag #mavsparade was jumping with constant tweets from those attending the celebration. As a big Mavs fan, I sat here and watched live coverage on TV, but it was monitoring that hashtag that really allowed me to “feel” the event itself, to participate in the celebration. People put up pictures and videos and made wonderful comments. I’m not sure who originated the hashtag, but the local media companies blew a fleeting opportunity by not paying to sponsor the thing.

During the revolution in Egypt, Al Jazeera English bought the hashtag “#egypt. That meant they controlled the top of that hashtag. Here’s how it looked:

Al Jazeera English uses Twitter

Al Jazeera English had a problem with reach in the U.S. It’s only available in three cities here. By employing this strategy — and by consistently delivering high quality content on the ground — the company’s online live stream jumped 2,500% in a matter of days, and they’ve become a major global player in the news industry. Al Jazeera English used Twitter to report the news, position itself as the authority on the hashtag and drive viewers to its livestream. It was, frankly, brilliant strategy.

Media companies here use Twitter as a notification system, and it’s great for that. But it also affords opportunities for good old fashioned marketing, if we can think and move quickly. But isn’t that the real challenge for news organizations these days anyway, to be nimble, fleet of foot, adaptive and flexible?

So the celebration here in Dallas is over, and it’s been a lot of fun for the fans. To the media companies here in Dallas: store this missed opportunity away for some other day. It’ll come in handy.

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