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Will you be my health policy valentine?

How an HHS staffer's tweet went viral

February 10, 2012

Dan Diamond, Managing Editor

You don't need Twitter to love Valentine's Day—but it certainly helps to send #HealthPolicyValentines to that special wonk in your life.

The clever (if nerdy) hashtag quickly jumped from social media on Thursday night to the mainstream press by Friday.

And playing the role of Cupid was HHS staffer Emma Sandoe, who was struck by love—for a clever idea—on her commute home.

Sharing the love
When creating the hashtag on Twitter, Sandoe thought "it would be funny to tweet one 'health policy valentine' everyday until Valentine's Day, but as soon as I started, I couldn't stop."

After Sandoe dashed off several tweets, the hashtag was quickly picked up by reporters like Politico's Kate Nocera and was soon trending across Twitter, with would-be Cyranos and Lord Byrons weighing in from coast-to-coast.

The clever idea inspired numerous wonky spin-offs, too. Most prominent? #FedValentines, which was coined by economist Justin Wolfers; organizations like NPR, former White House advisor Austin Goolsbee, and even the San Francisco Federal Reserve ultimately weighed in. (The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have listed their top #FedValentines.)

Sandoe picked one of her favorite tweets for the Briefing, and here are several more that made our team laugh out loud too:

Tips for a viral hashtag?
Sandoe confesses that success caught her by surprise. "To be honest, I put my phone down as soon as I got home and didn't realize it had gotten so popular" until friends sent her emails, she said.

As a newly minted viral star, Sandoe does have tips for creating a catchy hashtag. It should be simple and easy to understand, she said. It clearly helps when the hashtag is timely.

Meanwhile, watching the love for her idea spread has been hilarious, she added. "Everyone should embrace their inner nerd," Sandoe stressed.

(And on Valentine's Day, presumably embrace those who are outwardly nerdy, too.)

  • Spread the love: Pass us your #HospitalValentines, either in the comments below or via Twitter. We'll pick the best ones for Tuesday's issue.

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