Friday Fun: #pittsburghbands

People that know me know that I’m not shy about the fact that I’ve spent a good portion of my life in Pittsburgh. I work it into every bio I have to write in one way or another. Even though I’ve been out of the city for nearly three years now, I still have a large number of friends there. Many of whom I still interact with on Twitter.

Which is why I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard at my timeline as I did Wednesday night.

It was a simple hashtag: #pittsburghbands. No one was really sure who started it. (The @twittsburgh account credited it to @woodmuffin this morning.)

The game was easy: Replace words in a band name with locations, people or phrases from Pittsburgh. And it took off.

Enough so that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote about it on its website Thursday.

Attempts at starting Twitter hashtag games are made all the time. Sometimes they go viral, like Wednesday night’s experience. But most times they totally fall by the wayside, unheard by a larger audience.

So, why did this one work?

Timing. It was the middle of the week … and the Pirates (which have become a social media phenomenon of their own as of late – 19 consecutive losing seasons will do that to you) were in a slump. And Pittsburghers were looking for a distraction. (Yes, even beyond the Steelers, which is slightly remarkable in and of itself.) The hashtag really started picking up in the evening … while the Pirates were losing badly. That’s probably not a coincidence.

High profile interest. Sometimes all it takes is one “local celebrity” to buy in to your game. In this case, one of the first I saw jumping in on the game was Ken Rice, a news anchor at KDKA. Bill Peduto, a city councilman who is held in high esteem within the social media community, also jumped in early. The key here? These are people that not only have respect on Twitter, they have respect in a broader range as well. Reaching a wider audience – read: those who normally wouldn’t understand or participate in a hashtag game – meant greater participation and buy-in.

Community. This one’s probably the most important. I’m not the only person who’s proud to say she’s from Pittsburgh. Pittsburghers are very proud of where they come from. Even if they don’t live there anymore. (Need proof? Watch “Steeler Nation” invade host cities on game days. I witnessed it for the first time here in Nashville in 2010 and was simply blown away.) This sense of pride in community will pop up whenever it’s encouraged. And this hashtag encouraged it.

Rarity. While photo memes have almost taken over my news feed on Facebook, a good hashtag meme hadn’t been played in my Twitter circle in quite some time. The novelty catches on quickly … spreads rapidly … then quickly tires and fades. The fact that this game lasted more than 24 hours is slightly remarkable.

Another hashtag meme has popped up on my timeline today – #pittsburghtvshows. It will be interesting to see whether or not this one catches on like #pittsburghbands did. Is the market tired of playing games? Or is Friday the perfect day to make another run at it? And is the topic catchy enough for people to want to try to get in on the fun again?

What’s the point in all of this? Nothing. It’s simply a fun distraction. It’s one of the benefits of social media that we seem to have forgotten talking about with all the mentions of engagement, marketing and ROI. Sometimes, social media is just fun. And that’s OK.

For what it’s worth, my only contribution to the #pittsburghbands game was Munhall-ford and Sons. I’m not very good at playing these games.

But thanks for making me laugh, Pittsburghers.

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