Flocking behaviour - why Twitter is for starlings, not buzzards
Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together.
William Turner, 1545
Brian Kelly has posted a light analysis of Twitter usage around the ALT-C 2009 conference in Manchester last week. He notes that there were "over 4,300 tweets published in a week" using the (conference-endorsed) #altc2009 hashtag (summary), and a further "128 tweets [...] from 51 contributors" using the alternative (but not endorsed) #altc09 hashtag (summary). Pretty impressive I think.
Looking at the summaries for the two hashtags I note that @HallyMk1 was by far the highest user of the 'wrong' tag - 41 tweets - making him one of the more prolific individual tweeters at the conference I suspect.
The trouble is, in my experience at least, using a Twitter search for a particular hashtag has become the most common way to keep up to date with what is going on at a given event. On that basis, if you don't tweet using the generally agreed tag you are effectively invisible to much of the conference audience - in short, you aren't part of the conversation in the way you are if you use the same tag as everyone else.
Tags emerge naturally as part of the early 'flocking behaviour' in the run up to an event (with and without the help of conference organisers). I would argue that in general it pays to go with the flow, even if you have good reason for thinking an alternative hashtag would have been a better choice (because it is shorter for example). As I noted to @HallyMk1 on Twitter this morning, to do otherwise makes you "either a slow learner or very stubborn" :-)