What are #hashtags?

Once you’ve started using Social Media sites, it won’t take long before you come across what’s known as a hashtag.

A “hashtag” is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash symbol (“#“). They were first used on Twitter but now you can use hashtags on other social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+.

Yes…but what exactly is a hashtag? What is it used for? Why is it there?!

Great question!

At first it may seem it may be hard to wrap your head around what the purpose of this thing is. But, once I you understand what its purpose is, you will realise it’s not actually as complicated as it seems.

A hashtag groups tweets together on a particular subject. When you add a ‘#’ directly in front of a word, words or acronym – a link is automatically created. This is called a hashtag. When you click on the link you will see all the latest tweets/posts containing that hashtag, making them easy to find among the millions of tweets/posts sent each day.

Hashtags are by the people and for the people, i.e. Hashtags are user-generated. Their popularity has grown organically to become part of Twitter culture and now part of the Social Media culture. Hashtags can be a valuable tool for users & specifically business users.

How?

  1. You can use a hashtag to follow, share or search tweets on a topic of interest. That may be an organised event, TV programme, noteworthy cause, news story or a group conversation taking place on Twitter (for example: a live Q & A).
  2. They can be used in emergency situations and relief efforts.
  3. They can be used as “Asides”. These are little extras people add to their tweets to express the way they feel or make a comment about what they just tweeted (for example: #blessed, #mustread, #smh (shaking my head). Users will sometimes use a hashtag to add context or irony to a message, #fail and #justsayin being examples of this. Watch for these hashtags as you communicate with your online community. Try to understand how they are feeling and if necessary try to rectify any problems that they may have.
  4. You can add a hashtag to your message so it reaches more people – your tweet is seen by your followers and anyone following the hashtag – which is great for expanding your community!
  5. The most popular hashtag is #FF (which is short for #FollowFriday). It’s a Twitter trend created back in 2009 by Twitter users that has since become a customary Friday activity. A #FF is a shout out and a show of appreciation. Each Friday you recommend Twitter profiles that you appreciate and enjoy to all of your followers. The idea being that your #FF recommendation will encourage others to check out their profile, generating more followers for them.
  6. You can hold a contest and use a hashtag to get people to enter your contest.  This will create awareness of the competition and perhaps build your online following.

If you’re going to use hashtags in your tweets, don’t overdo it by putting a # in front of every word. Not only is it spammy and annoying to read, your message really won’t make sense.

Also, don’t hijack a popular hashtag that has no relevance to your message just to get your tweet seen. You may get reported, unfollowed or worse.

Online Strategist and Web Designer passionate about user-friendly design, responsive websites, small businesses, startups and her family.

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