We’ve all seen the #followfriday or #musicmonday memes on Twitter, as well as others every day in the Trending Topics section, but what’s with the little “˜pound’ symbol (#) that they all seem to have?
Those are called hashtags, and they are often misunderstood by new members of the Twitter community. So, what are they exactly? In this article we will take a look at what hashtags are, how to use them, and what they can do for you.
Hashtags – Background & How-To
In our Twitter manual Twitter: Best Practices and Tips [PDF Guide], we stated that “a hashtag is the Twitter equivalent of metadata on a message”. This means that hashtags are like keywords, and by appending tags to your tweets they will be easier to find within Twitter. Let me explain.
Say I want to write a tweet about MUO’s article on hashtags:
Everyone will be able to see my tweet but what if I wanted a specific group, like the MakeUseOf community, to be able to find it easily? Using a hashtag simplifies this.
Now everyone searching for MakeUseOf will be able to see the article. If people find the article interesting and want to tweet about it they only need to include the #makeuseof tag at the end of their tweets and everyone will be able to follow the conversation surrounding the article.
Hashtags are generally placed at the end of a tweet. Like keywords, you can attach multiple tags to your tweets. Hashtags are sometimes abbreviated (#followfriday or #FF) for ease of use.
How To Find Popular Hashtags
There are many various websites/directories to help you utilize hashtags in your tweets. One of the best tools for finding tags is Twubs.
Twubs is a website comprised of Twitter groups, and these groups are built around aggregated content from hashtags. There is no shortage of tags on Twubs. You can view the most popular listings on the front page or by category.
Let’s say you want to find a hashtag to use that is Internet-related. Just go to the Categories section and click on Internet. Each category has several tags to choose from. The Internet category for example has tags for #facebook, #twitter, and #socialmedia. Not sure which category your hashtag is in? You can search keywords within Twubs as well.
What if your desired hashtag is not listed in Twubs or no one has written a description for it? You can register it yourself! Just click Register Your Hashtag!, enter your tag into the box, and click Check Availability. Registering a hashtag minimizes the likelihood of using a tag that is already taken, as well as preventing others from using your tag. This helps keep the conversation central and it reduces clutter.
Tracking The Conversation
Once you find a hashtag/keyword worth using, you can start tracking the conversation around it. By chatting with tags you are more likely to find like-minded people on Twitter who share the same passions and interests as you. Twubs has this function built in, but there are tools better suited for this task. You can start viewing the conversation with these utilities:
TweetChat offers a really simple way to monitor a hashtag. All you do is type in your tag and hit Go >>. You are then taken to a screen where your results are updated in real-time. You can control the speed of the results scrolling by and even pause them. If you sign in with your Twitter username and password you can type your messages (with tags) right from within TweetChat. It is a great way to maintain a Twitter conversation.
Twitterfall offers a unique way of tracking more than one hashtag at a time. Type your keywords into the search box and results start cascading down the page. You can change the speed, pause results, and choose whether or not to show re-tweets. Twitterfall also lets you show tweets based on geographical location and exclude certain terms from your results. You can even color-code your searches to help keep track.
Marketing With Hashtags
Hashtags can be used for all sorts of marketing reasons: news (#h1n1, #iranelection), political campaigns (#obama), events, tweetups, contests, and giveaways just to name a few. Companies rely on hashtags to generate buzz about their products and services, also.
Usage of hashtags can be an effective marketing strategy in that it allows them to start a conversation and chat with potential clients/customers in a real-time Twitter-based environment. This also allows them to be more creative with their marketing strategy. Events and contests carry hashtags to help promote their products and send more traffic to their online stores and product pages. It is a cost effective way of marketing and building brand recognition.
What does this mean for you, the consumer? Knowledge of hashtags grants you the power to navigate Twitter in search of better #deals and #prize giveaways. If you are looking for a specific product or brand, see if there are any hashtags for that brand. A little research can go a long way!
Still Don’t Know What Hashtags Are?
As you can see, hashtags have many uses in the Twittersphere. They allow you to track trending topics, host conversations with like-minded Twitterers, and market your brand to the masses. Hopefully reading this article has alleviated some of the mysteries surrounding these tags and maybe is a call-to-action to start using them to your own benefit.
Using any other cool utilities to manage your hashtags? Leave a comment about them, along with your other opinions, thoughts, and ideas!