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A Rose by Any Other Hashtag

Language, Community and Twitter: How to Connect the Maternal Health Community via Hashtags (Hey, if the President is Doing It.....)

What’s in a word? A hashtag? Using different hashtags will target different audiences: to engage the most people in the maternal health community, what should we use? What’s your preferred hashtag? Why?

Ethnolinguistics is the fascinating study of how language informs community, and how community informs language. Different countries, regions, cities, neighborhoods, religious communities, affinity groups and friend groups all have unique words and expressions that form a basis of community through their language. Twitter is its own community, with millions of micro communities forming every day around trending hashtags- on November 19, 2012, the trending topics included specific events like #BlackFriday, and more general topics like #photography. Even President Obama is defining a new movement and community with his recent request for citizens to tweet about the end of tax cuts using the tag #MY2K!

Maternal health workers constitute a global community of obstetricians, midwives, community health workers, ministers of health, policy makers, advocates, philanthropists, and more. On Twitter, it is important that a convention around tagging a post as relevant to maternal health is established. Using a variety of websites that offer tracking of hashtags, Maternova recently conducted an informal study on which hashtags are the most used in the maternal health field. #Maternalhealth turned out to be the most popular, with #MNCH and #mathealth also showing up. Brand or campaign-specific ones like #everymomcounts (Christy Turlington’s) show up intermittently, and are less visible.

In the last month (30 days), reports showed how many times each of the following hashtags was used.
#Maternalhealth 417 times
#MNH 41 times
#MNCH 0 times
#mathealth 0 times
#everymomcounts 57 times
#everymothercounts 4

The maternal health community benefits from the interconnectedness the Internet offers. The community can spread news about best practices, funding opportunities, reviews of products and devices via forums, listservs, Facebook and Twitter. To use Twitter optimally, it is important to develop a shared language, so that the community can connect. Let’s tweet together!