If you’re active over on Twitter, you’ve likely come across tweets that include topics, keywords, locations, conferences or events proceeded by a “#”.
Known as “hashtags“, the purpose of these identifiers is to create groupings to help users easily follow conversation around a particular topic. Just as you use a tag to help people find your blog posts, photos on Flickr or videos on YouTube, hashtags help Twitter users find conversation topics.
One of the toughest parts about Twitter is finding an efficient way to enter and engage in the ongoing conversation while directing your tweets to followers that will find your content interesting. Many users balance their tweets between professional and personal interests or hobbies. Hashtags are one way to help direct relevant tweets to the right groups of followers.
Where Do I Search Hashtags?
Both sites track real-time hashtags to help categorize these topical conversations. You can also take a look at the popularity of new hashtags, subscribe to RSS feeds for tags and also keep on top of newly created hashtags.
How Do I Use a Hashtag?
Simple. Check out the sites above to see if a topic or hashtag already exists. Want to set up a new topic? Visit twemes.com or follow @hashtags (they will automatically follow you back) then start using your hashtag of choice by including #yourtag in your tweets.
Why Would I Use a Hashtag?
There are a number of ways to consider using hashtags. Here are a few ideas:
Major News Event/Crisis – We all witnessed the information flow that quickly spread across Twitter with the Mumbai attacks. #mumbai was set up to help track the flow of info being shared across the platform. It’s more than likely that a highly active Twitter user or news organization will beat you to the punch setting up breaking news event hashtags, but keep in mind that it’s an easy way to track the conversation.
Event or Conference – Popular among PR/Marketing pros, event hashtags are frequently used to build conversation around those attending a specific event or conference. For example, you can see how #sxsw is being used to focus conversation around the annual South by Southwest conference. From a media relations standpoint, this is also a great way to help interested reporters track news and info from a conference or event.
Another good example of hashtag use is Twitter user Sarah Evans’ (@PRsarahevans) creation of #journchat – a weekly “tweet-up” conversation that takes place each Monday night to help bridge relationships between journalists and PR folks. Can’t make it on a given Monday but want to know what went down? That’s the beauty of hashtags with the entire conversation being tracked via the tag above (Sarah has also set up a #journchat friendfeed room to help track).
Those are just a few examples, but you can of course be as creative as you’d like. Do keep in mind that various users may apply the same hashtag for different purposes so it’s worth your time to research and see what hashtags are already in use.
Is There More I Can Do With Hashtags?
It’s social media, there’s always more. Hop over to TwiTip’s post that includes some great info on additional hashtag commands.
Is There Any Etiquette to Using Hashtags?
Of course. No one likes a hashtag hog. Only utilize hashtags when you are actively and smartly contributing to an ongoing conversation. Here’s a good post on some additional etiquette.
Here’s a nice post from Wild Apricot on an Introduction to Twitter Hashtags.
More of a visual learner? Here’s a video from Bwana.tv on hashtags as well.
About Scott MeisVP, Digital and Social Strategies for @wsseattle. I develop and execute online marketing campaigns for a variety of nonprofit, corporate and government clients. I thrive on creative content, communities and actionable results.
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