Why Use Hashtags? Guide To The Micro-Blogging Universe

A hashtag is a keyword phrase used in Twitter conversations that is preceded by a pound (#) sign and written without spaces in between, ie #ilovehashtag. The primary purpose of a hashtag is to bring conversations on the same topic into a single thread to make it convenient for information consumers to view and compare ideas.

What Do Hashtags Do?

The use of hashtags is not just for Twitter, although this is perhaps the most popular. They can be used also for other micro-blogging platforms, which include Google+,??identi.ca?and Instagram. Different social media users from different countries can tie their conversations together through hashtags. For example, if you try clicking a particular hashtag in a message, you will see the list of posts using the same hashtag. Hashtags allow an audience to interact live during events, such as conferences, TV shows, political events, etc. A comprehensive list of popular hashtags at a certain time can be found at Hashtags.org. HootSuite, a third-party downloadable app, can also monitor hashtag activity.

How Hashtags Are Created

It doesn't take fancy tools to apply a hashtag to your messages. All you need to do is type your text and then insert the hashtag at any part of the message and then send. Of course, the hashtag is not just any word. It has to be a carefully thought target keyword that is relatable, so that other Twitter users will be inspired to use it for their own, as well. When the hashtag you've created has developed a following, clicking on it will lead you to the list of Twitter users who have adopted it in their own conversations. You can also communicate with newfound Twitter friends through here. In a way, an effective hashtag creates a community online. They are also great for monitoring visibility of your message on multiple social media networks. There are certain letters and characters that are not allowed for use with hashtags. For example, if all the characters in your hashtag are numbers, as with #1234, it won't work. You can read more about the don'ts on What Is Not Allowed With Hashtags.

Tips On Making And Using Hashtags

Here are some tips to make sure the hashtags you're using are achieving their objectives.

1. Is the hashtag new?

A quick search through Search.Twitter.com will lead you to a list of hashtags that have already been used in the past or are currently active. If you find an existing conversation on the hashtag you're eyeing, you might want to go with something that is equally targetted but not as frequently used.

2. Go easy on the sentiments.

Some hashtags have failed to fly because they poked too much on the emotion of the public, as with the word 'love' or 'hate'. These two are too strong words to summon so if you're going to use them to create a following, make sure that there really is a large sense of love or hate for the topic. Politicians have often used 'love' to start a Twitter thread on them and found the results ineffective and downright disappointing.

3. Use industry keywords.

Brands and popular industry terms are highly relatable and, more likely than not, Twitter users will find use for such hashtags in a particular event. The controversial hashtag #NBCFail for instance may not have been actively searched by Twitter users but the fact that it carried a brand name made it easy to micro-bloggers to jump in and create a massive conversation around it.

4. Be careful where you use your hashtags.

Designer Kenneth Cole (@KennethCole) made a huge blunder in 2011 when he inserted the #Cairo hashtag in the same message he was promoting his newest collection. The tweet read: "Million are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at httpL//bit.ly/KCairo -KC". After much backlash from the public, Cole has removed the offending tweet and issued an apology on his Facebook Page. Hashtag abuse is not uncommon, although with proper etiquette orientation it should be out of conversations entirely. Here's Twitter's official statement on hashtag abuse. "The following behaviors and others like them could cause your account to be filtered from search, or even suspended:
  • Adding one or more topic/hashtag to an unrelated tweet in an attempt to gain attention in search.
  • Repeatedly tweeting the same topic/hashtag without adding value to the conversation in an attempt to get the topic trending/trending higher.
  • Tweeting about each trending topic in turn in order to drive traffic to your profile, especially when mixed with advertising.
  • Listing the trending topics in combination with a request to be followed.
  • Tweeting about a trending topic and posting a misleading link to something unrelated."

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