I was lucky enough to be invited to a great social media workshop recently hosted by a talented bunch of social media students at Birmingham City University. After an engaging talk from Birmingham blogger and Created in Birmingham proprietor Pete Ashton, we split into two groups and talked around the benefits social media offers to communities and organisations – allowing time for eager thumbs to live tweet, of course. Nicky Getgood, Alison Smith, Kate Huges, Pete Ashton and I worked with the groups for the afternoon.

Pete spoke about social media as ‘performance conversation’, an interesting comparison between social media and busy corridors and the way in which they connect people, and Twitter as a precursor for small talk at networking events. Most interestingly though, he touched on what it means to be interesting online. The secret, perhaps unsurprisingly, is to be interested in others. By showing your enthusiasm for something, your followers see where your interests lie and will be drawn to you, hence the significance of the humble retweet.

The hashtag for the day was #MTBworkshop, publicised solely though Twitter, with plenty of nice commenting and digital back patting going on there as a result. Looking through the #MTBworkshop tweet stream, I realised just how useful hashtags are.

The internet is a big place, and even though twitter is only a microcosm within the internet, it’s still incredibly easy to get lost among the deluge of tweets, links, images and audioboos. The beauty of hashtagging is that it helps to organise this information and give it relevance by placing it together in context, ironically in much the same way the internet itself brings together information. By bringing information together, hashtags are helping to make sense of twitter for many people that are new to the phenomenon.

All in all, the event got me thinking more deeply about the ever changing face of social media, and the way in which features such as hashtagging and retweeting are becoming the unsaid nuances in digital conversation. Much like face to face conversation, the trick is learning to use them properly.