fi-sk-hashtags-2011

#skpoli has been a favourite hashtag among Twitter users in Saskatchewan, but in the past week, #skvotes has surged ahead in popularity. (hashtagbattle.com)

An election campaign is underway and some political junkies have been involved in an intense debate — about hashtags.

Hashtags are the short keywords Twitter users put at the end of their tweets — starting with a hash mark (#) — to improve their chances of being read.

In the runup to the Saskatchewan election, there's been a lively Twitter discussion about what's the best one to use.

Over the past few weeks, messages have been appended with #skpoli, #skvotes, #saskvotes, #skelxn, #sk2011 and a couple of others.

Some people try to cover all the bases by adding two, three or even more hashtags.

"It's getting a bit ridiculous," says Saskatoon blogger and Twitter user Jordon Cooper, who jokingly send out a Tweet with a half-dozen hashtags — then claimed to forget what he wanted to say.

"Just having some fun with it," he said.

Having an effective hashtag matters, Cooper says, because people tweeting about the election want to be read and readers want to find their tweets.

But a tweet is limited to 140 characters, so adding multiple hashtags can be a problem.

Winner emerges

As it turns out, #skvotes has emerged as the consensus choice, which makes sense because the format is similar to favourite hashtags used in other provincial elections, Cooper said.

The popularity of #skvotes has been confirmed by a website that lets people compare hashtags.

According to hashtagbattle.com, in the past week, #skvotes has been hashtagged 628 times, overtaking #skpoli, the longtime favourite of political-minded tweeters in the province, which was used 465 times.

In the past day, #skvotes has enjoyed a 2-to-1 edge over #skpoli.  Meanwhile, far behind in the hashtag wars are such also-rans as #skelxn, #sk2011 and #saskvotes.