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Twitter Tip: What is a hashtag (#) on Twitter?

posted by Alicia in Twitter

What's a hashtag? tweetLucy asks me a question on Twitter

My Twitter buddy @LucyBakerMakeup asked me a question about hashtags (see above) so here’s a quick #101. :)

Twitter Hashtag 101


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

Hashtags are user generated. Their popularity has grown organically to become part of Twitter culture and a valuable tool for users. Here’s why…

  • You can use a hashtag to follow or search tweets on a topic of interest. That may be an organised event, TV programme, noteworthy cause, breaking or running news story, or group conversation taking place on Twitter. They’re valuable in emergency situations and relief efforts too.

Haiti - Social media for social good using a Twitter hashtagSocial media for social good using a Twitter hashtag

  • 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.
  • Often users will use a hashtag to add context or irony to a message, #fail and #justsayin being examples of this.

A #justsayin tweet from Francisco RosalesUseful tip from Francisco Rosales

  • The most popular hashtag is probably #followfriday or #ff – you can read more about Follow Friday here.
  • You can create a hashtag to generate interest around an organised event making it easy for attendees to meet others, or allow those who can’t attend to keep up to date with latest goings on. They are great for making real life connections, finding people with mutual interests, and creating desire and buzz around your event with the ‘Hey, I’m missing out!’ factor.

Sounds good. How do I get one?

Hashtags are not an official feature of Twitter. This makes it difficult to find the origin or reason for a hashtag (particularly if it’s a weird acronym) or stop other users adopting a hashtag that’s already in use. Hashtags.org is one of the better websites to use if you want to find out the meaning behind a hashtag. Anyone can create a hashtag but before you do consider these tips:

  1. Make it short, memorable and appropriate. No one wants to type a long hashtag or use up valuable space imposed by the 140 character limit in a post
  2. When you’ve decided on your chosen hashtag – check it’s not already in use. You could have chosen something that will have negative connotations. It’s simple to check – just search for the hashtag you’ve chosen and if it’s already taken, find another
  3. If your hashtag includes more than one word, like ‘World Cup’, remember to close the space between the words (like this: #worldcup) otherwise your hashtag could take on another meaning (#world cup – ‘world’ will become the hashtag)
  4. If your tag is for an event remember to tell people before, during and after, and encourage them to use it so your message and buzz spreads virally

What else you should know…

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. This is spam and you may be reported by a disgruntled user, or worse.

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  • 29 July 2011 by Lucy Baker

    Thanks Alicia, I am going to pass this on for you – V helpful

    • 8 August 2011 by Alicia

      Anytime Lucy, glad to help!

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  • 17 April 2012 by Stephen Jones

    Superb advice. I’m a newby and found that extremely helpful. New to Twitter but enjoying gathering the news….

  • 23 June 2012 by Cindy Mihalko

    Another fantastic post, Alicia. I really enjoy your writing style and your sharing this info!
    Cindy

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  • 15 April 2013 by Sukumar

    Very Very nice and effective information, I really enjoyed your information.

    Thanks Alicia

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    [...] Twitter Tip: What is a hashtag (#) on Twitter? | Alicia Cowan http://bit.ly/10f15qS [...]

  • 12 July 2013 by Commonsense Mum

    Thank you! You’ve really helped to explain the basics without making me feel like an idiot – much appreciated.

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  • 24 October 2013 by Paul Newton

    As a twitter newbie this has been very helpful.

  • 16 November 2013 by Tenancy Ending Soon?

    Hi There

    I think this is a very descriptive post on what an hash tag is. Beautifully crafted information, useful insights and above all, this post has nearly answered all, be it tech-guys or dummies.

    As a digital marketer or even a business person, you have to use the hash tags very often now a days, and these hash tags are so helpful to your business that you just cannot live without them anymore. For example, I work for an End Of Tenancy Cleaning Company and we put a lot of our focus on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Youtube (or in short words on all Digital Practise Areas).

    Well done Alicia and I will definitely follow you from now on.

    Regards,
    Luqman

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