Are you puzzled by hashtags on Twitter? It’s one of the things that confuses people when they start using Twitter. Even people who have been using Twitter for some time can be uncertain about how to use them. They are part of the Twitter jargon and should not be overused, but used correctly, hashtags can be an incredibly useful tool.
What is a hashtag?
On Twitter you will often find words prefixed by a “#” symbol (or hash symbol). These are known as hashtags. This convention was started by the Twitter community as a way of grouping conversations about topics. They create hyperlinks. By clicking on them, you will see all the conversations going on using that particular hashtag. The search results will include all the people who have used that hashtag whether you follow them or not.
Anyone can create a hashtag and I will come onto some guidelines in a minute, but you might be still wondering why you would want to. I thought the easiest way is to show you five different ways hashtags are being used on Twitter. Hopefully, at least one of the ways will spark an interest in you.
Different ways to use hashtags
- Joining chat
- To show expertise
- To add value to the tweet
- News and Emergency Coordination
1. Joining Chat
Twitter can seem like a mishmash of disjointed conversations, but hashtags allow groups of people to chat to each other about the same topic. There are pre-arranged times when groups will get together and have conversations. By using the hashtag, people can talk about a particular shared interest with other people in the group. In effect, it creates a chatroom. For example, every weekday morning at 11 am to 12 pm, small business owners join into #watercoolermoment chat that was started by Enterprise Nation.
Hashtags can create buzz around events whether they are at a particular location or virtual. During the event, people can follow all the discussions going on about the event. People can connect with each other. For example, if you are going to a conference by knowing what the hashtag is for the event, you can start chatting to people who are using that hashtag. Great for the event organiser and for people who take part in the event. Using the event hashtag it makes it easier to find people.
This also works well for people doing a 30 day challenge. For example, the Ultimate Blog Challenge had #blogboost as its hashtag. By following the hashtag, members of the group can publicise their new blog posts to each other.
3. To show Expertise or a specialised area
Often experts will add a hashtag to show that they are giving advice on a topic such as #MarketingMoment, #prtip, #salestip, by following the hashtag, you can pick up useful information in bite sized pieces.
There are a number of hashtags used for job seekers and recruiters, so if you were looking for a job, you may want to follow #hirefriday #HF (hire Friday) or #HFUK (hire Friday UK for jobs in the UK market) or #HFchat. I think you can work out which day of the week this hashtag gets used!
4. To comment on the intent of a tweet or to add extra information
Sometimes hashtags are used for fun. I think you can work out what the following hashtag was about…
If someone adds #ironic to a tweet, you can tell the tone they meant by it.
Many people do tweet about food (yes, it is true!) and thanks to Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, #onnomnom is become a popular hashtag to show enjoyment of food.
See what other ways you can find where the hashtag adds value to the tweet.
5. News and Emergency Coordination
Hashtags become even more useful in a time of crisis or emergency as groups can rally around a common term to facilitate tracking. By using the same hashtag, real time reporting of the disaster can be monitored. You don’t have to say, this is about the news story X and waste precious characters. Simply by using the news hashtag, people know what you are talking about. It makes your tweet more succint and helps everyone follow the news.
Hashtags make topics easier to search for and therefore more likely to trend.
I have learnt a lot by keeping an eye on the trending topics for news stories.
Considerations when choosing a hashtag
- Check to see if it is already being used
- Keep it short, it is part of your 140 characters
- Keep it as obvious as possible,
- Capitalise separate words to make it easier to read if appropriate eg #SouthAfrica instead of #southafrica.
- Publicise it and encourage everyone to use it.
Caution 1: Do not overuse hashtags, it becomes very annoying!
How to find out what a Hashtag is about
- The best place to find what a trending topics are about is at What the Trend, this will cover not only the trending hashtags but all trending topics too.
- Another place to find out what hashtags are being used and to see the popularity trending is Hashtags.org
Caution 2: Do not try to use a trending topic to promote your product, it can backfire on you!
- Kenneth Cole, a fashion house, used the hashtag #Cairo during the Eqyptian uprising to promote their spring range and caused a massive outcry earlier this year. They later apologised for their insensitiviy
If you are reading this on Friday and are still wondering what #ff are all about, then read this article What is #ff?
Have fun using Hashtags, but remember if your tweets mostly contains hashtags, are you really communicating?