Attending AIPAC from My House…The Power of the #Hashtag

Right now, over 10,000 delegates are gathered in Washington, DC, for the annual AIPAC Policy Conference. This event, hosted by the primary Pro-Israel lobby in the United States, brings together the movers and shakers from the American Jewish community for three days of intense discussions and presentations by major political leaders. On Sunday, President Obama addressed the conference, and tonight, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be speaking to the group. While I did not have the privilege of attending, I feel an intimate connection to the conference this year that I have not had in the past. Certainly, the fact that the AIPAC web site has videos, some live streamed, of the keynote addresses, has helped me stay in the loop. But the humble “#” sign has played an infinitely more important role in allowing me to experience the conference from afar.

I should elaborate. It’s not just the “#”  sign, but rather the “Hashtag” for the AIPAC conference:  #AIPAC2011. A Hashtag is a word or phrase, preceded by the pound sign, that is used in Twitter to give identity and flow to tweets. They are useful for people using twitter to chat on particular topics, as well as to provide an easy way to share and find tweets on specific events, like the AIPAC conference. If you go to Twitter.com and search for #AIPAC2011, or better yet, make it a column in your favorite twitter client like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, you can follow a running commentary of the event that gives you variety of perspectives and an intimacy that traditional media cannot match.

Hashtags are powerful tools for educators on twitter as well. Use the Hashtag #EdChat to find a constantly evolving stream of tweets on all sorts of educational topics. #JED21 does the same for tweets relating to Jewish education and technology.

Finally, Hashtags can be used to extend your own reach on Twitter. Normally, your tweets are just seen by your own followers. But if you use an existing Hashtag, your voice can be amplified, as your tweets can be read by others following that particular Hashtag. I have personally made many new connections on twitter using this method.

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