Social Media A to Z Series: H is for Hashtag ~ 13 Uses for the Hashtag

Our language is changing rapidly and technical terms are becoming commonplace. What am I talking about you might ask.  Well, recently I was with friends enjoying a long weekend where I asked, “Have you noticed the use of the hashtag in the movies?” The response was “What is a hashtag?!” I had to explain that I was not being naughty and shared the concept of the hashtag. This whole preamble is to say, I am so glad that we are at “H is for Hashtag!” as we definitely need a common understanding on what it is and how it is being used.

So what is a Hashtag?

  • The # symbol is called a hashtag.
  • It is primarily used to mark keywords or topics in messages (tweets) when using Twitter. This is the original use of the symbol but do read on.

Why do you need to know about this?

  • It was created by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.
  • It is a way to organize and quickly search messages.
  • Hashtags helps you find interesting Tweets
  • To use the hashtag you would place it just in front of the keyword or subject that you would want to search on later. So for example, if you were sending a message (aka tweeting) about Facebook, you might use #Facebook to find news and/other followers about Facebook. The hashtag can be placed anywhere in the Tweet.  Remember, if you Tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Tweet.
  •  Hashtagged words that become very popular are often termed trending topics ie it is away of knowing what the “hottest buzz” is in the “media” within that timeline.

When using the hashtag remember:

  • To not over-tag a single Tweet
  • Best practices recommend using no more than 3 hashtags per Tweet.
  • Use hashtags  that are relevant to the topic of interest in your Tweet
  • Be sure that it adds value for yourself and your followers.
  • Click on a hashtagged word in any message if you want to show all other Tweets in that category.

That’s it!

Now I could have easily finished this post at this point however what is also interesting is the different ways the hashtag is being used above what has been already described. I did a quick survey in addition to my own observations on how the hashtag is being used.

The 13 Uses of the Hashtag

  1. Search. The number one use  of the hashtag is using it like you would a search engine.  Many use it to search information, discounts  or specific topics. There are also a number of useful sites to search specific topics using the hashtags. They include: What the Trend?: This site provides information  about trending topics; Twubs: This site aggregates tweets and imports pictures to help illuminate the topics being discussed on the web; Hashtags.org:This sites  shows your hashtag use over time and recent tweets
  2. Organize information. This is an excellent use of the hashtag  when you need to organize information and/or groups. There is a lot of noise on Twitter, so having a tool to help you organize topics, information and/or groups really helps  to manage the vast amount of tweets on that information highway.
  3. Event Planning.  This use has definitely grown in popularity. The hashtag has been used for planning events, webinars, conferences and workshops. It is an excellent way to create a buzz leading up to an event. Fans and Followers are easily updated with current information. The same hashtag can then also be use for live feedback during the event and again after the event  to collect customer feedback.
  4. Creating a Buzz.. Linked to event planning during the event, organizers request visitors or Followers  to  tweet with  specific hashtags   to create a buzz about the event. This has also been exercised about particular issues  or causes to create visibility about a topic or issue.
  5. Formal Chats: Tweetchats has really grown over the years. They are like live tweet meet-ups but online using tweets.  You will have to brush-up on your typing speed though!  You can schedule a chat  at Tweetchat.com and then invite your followers to discuss a topic at a certain time and day. You can also review what chats are scheduled that you would like to join.
  6. Informal Chats with specific groups, Hashtags are great to help  focus on specific followers and topics. You can arrange informal chats at any given time..
  7. Cultural Shorthand: We are beginning to see hashtags outside tweets to emphasize a topic. The concept has really caught on and seems to be fast becoming a standard symbol outside tweets. I would like to call it a sort of new cultural shorthand. It is usually used to emphasize a feeling or perspective.
  8. Movie Promotions: The hashtag has made it to Hollywood! Its popularity has grown in movie trailers ie #movietitle. This makes it easy to search and is used to create a buzz before opening night and to allow Followers to continue the experience after the showing.
  9. Social TV. With the advent of social media, TV has had to change their approach to broadcasting. As a result, the whole concept of Social TV has emerged. With this emergence, is the growing use of hashtags link to a TV show and  the ability to provide live feedback to that viewing experience.
  10. Marketing Focus Groups:  The hashtag has been used to get people meeting online and providing feedback regarding  a company or  a product. 
  11. Education. The hashtag has been used as an education tool to direct specific groups to specific blog post/articles to educate readers  and customers. It has also found its way in some classrooms.
  12. Branding: Again linked to marketing, the hashtag is also used for branding #blog or  #company.
  13. Breaking News:  I added  this at the last-minute! While I was writing this post, I received a news bulletin on my facebook news-feed sharing what was happening on the NYC Brooklyn bridge! Nothing was in the media at the time but a photo flashed on my page where  there appeared to be a “sit-in” on the bridge. I was instructed to search the  hashtag #occupywallstreet to get the latest on Twitter. Amazing!
Well there….H is for Hasthtags! Let me know if you have seen any additional use of the hashtag so that we can keep a running list.

Cartoon used by permission of the Cartoonist.

Image by Shirley Williams

28 Responses to “Social Media A to Z Series: H is for Hashtag ~ 13 Uses for the Hashtag”

  1. Christine Westover Reply October 2, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Hi Shirley,

    Loved this post – very informative – – I will be sure to share with others.

    Christine W

    • Christine, Thank you for this wonderful feedback and absolutely thrilled that you are considering sharing the post!

  2. Truly awesome post. I’ve learned a lot from it. I’ve tweeted it, 1+ed, Facebooked it, SU’ed it. Anyway, you know I’m your #1 fan, don’t you. Have a great end of weekend :-)

    • How wonderful! :)
      I am so glad that you popped by and enjoyed this post. I am sincerely thrilled and it is great to know that it has not only been rated positively but shared! Thank you!

  3. Thanks, can hardly wait for the rest of the alphabet …

    • Hi Tanya!
      Good to see you here and totally appreciate your feedback. I am glad that you will be joining us on our journey!

  4. Really good post, Shirley! It came through my RSS feed and I am totally sharing it with my followers. :)

    • Muhammad!
      Thank you! I so love the social network and crossing paths with interesting people. I am thrilled that you found this post of value to the point where you are too willing to share.

  5. #Great #article #Shirley, #I #love #it…. #:)

  6. This is an awesome article and great info! Twitter is my weakspot as far as social media. The only hashtag I was aware of before today was the HTML one. Thank you for the great content. Jason

  7. I love your Blog, it’s nice when you can tell somebody actuallly puts effort into a blog, and gives the blogs value.

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