TED and TEDx:A Community Connected by Hashtags

When you’re looking at hashtags, ideally you’re also getting a glimpse at a community. We’ve talked before about how hashtags can start and go viral spontaneously and about how companies can plan the use of hashtags for marketing purposes. We’ve looked at how hashtags can drive social causes. Today we’re checking out how existing communities stay connected via hashtags.

One of the biggest and most extensive communities worldwide is the TED community.

TED movie poster showing Mark Wahlberg and the plush bear.

No, not that TED. This one:

The TED letters at a TED event seen from behind.

photo taken from http://www.popsci.com/, credit http://duncandavidson.com/

Yes, we’re talking about TED Talks, the worldwide non-profit organisation founded in 1984 as a conference for Technology, Entertainment and Design. While the three letters still stand for those three areas of interested, TED Talks today cover a huge variety of topics, from music to science to popular culture and further.

Social Media connects the community

The TED Slogan is Ideas worth spreading, and they’re spreading all right. Not only are the 18 minute long talks filmed and then put online for everyone to watch. They’re also translated into hundreds of languages by volunteers. Furthermore, TED grants people around the world licences to organise their own TED events, so-called TEDx Events, with the “x” standing for “independently organised”. A lot of them refer to countries or cities (e.g. TEDxLondon), others to specific topics (e.g. TEDxWomen).

The amazing thing about TED and TEDx is that the organisers are strongly connected globally, both by travelling in order to attend each other’s events and by staying in touch online. TEDx organisers, speakers and attendees everywhere use both their “own” TEDx hashtags as well as the #TED and the more general #TEDx hashtag. Often they’ll use it in combination with another hashtag pointing towards the topic of the talk they are posting etc.

I ran a quick keyhole.co search, and in the past two days alone more than 630 users have posted more than 760 posts using the hashtags #ted, #tedtalks or #tedx. There’s something pretty special about TED and TEDx events in that the audience and target group are extremely engaged on social media. I myself have attended (and volunteered at) TEDx events in the past and have always noticed how the conversation online naturally supplements the happenings and talks on stage.

A b/w photo of the crowd enjoying TEDxDonauinsel 2014, photo taken by Manuel Gruber

TEDxDonauinsel 2015, photo credit: Manuel Gruber

Your chance to join the community

If you’ve never been part of the TEDx experience, you can do so…well, all the time, in fact – just check up on what TEDx events are happening in or near your town. But if you’re in Vienna you’ll get a chance very soon, since the TEDx season in Austria is upon us. There will be seven events between now and November 2015, and the one kicking it all off this weekend is TEDxDonauinsel, named after the popular recreational area near the Danube which the Viennese like to frequent. TEDxDonauinsel takes place on May 31, 2015 on Sansibar, a floating bar on Danube Island. It will be a half-day experience starting at 1 p.m. and, if past TEDx Events are an adequate gauge, probably going well into the night with an afterparty.

TEDxDonauinsel is in its second year. After last year’s topic Waltzing Wild Waters this year’s theme is Exploring Passion. We talked to Mathias Haas, on of the TEDxDonauinsel organisers about the event:

On the TEDxDonauinsel website you mention that “exploring” means actively looking for something instead of waiting for it to happen. How does having an official hashtag and a social wall fit in with that philosophy?

Yes, exploring means more than just finding something, as you said. It means to start looking for something actively instead of waiting for it to happen. TED and TEDx is a world of “ideas worth spreading”, and at TEDxDonauinsel the audience as well as the speakers on stage will be able to explore worlds of ideas. We want that to happen digitally as well and so we decided to implement the Social Wall. The Wall and the official hashtag #TEDxDonauinsel allow us to filter all content and conversations around those ideas.

Is this the first time you are using a social wall and will you be displaying it physically at the event?

We’ve used the wall for several events before and, yes, we will display it physically at the event as we’ve noticed that this increases engagement online! It’s great to be able to see comments and opinions about the talks while they are happening. This will also trigger new ideas.

How are you planning to get attendees passionate about using your hashtag?

Our moderator will introduce the channels, the official hashtag, and the wall, and additionally we will have signs with the hashtag. This year we also have an incentive – different prizes for the most active users in collaboration with Red Bull Mobile and Fischertechnik.

Are there any plans to get the speakers involved with the social wall as well?

We will provide a laptop in the speakers’ area so that our speakers will be able to take some time right after their talk to look at questions asked via social media and they’ll answer them.

The organisers/team of TEDxDonauinsel 2014 gather on stage at the event. Photo taken by Daniel Auer.

TEDxDonauinsel 2014, photo credit: Daniel Auer

Are you going to TEDxDonauinsel? Make sure you supplement your experience by following the TEDxDonauinsel Wall to get in touch with other attendees, organisers and TEDx-ers on social media.

And let us know about your experiences attending TEDx events in the comments!