Hashtags for Dummies

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If you didn’t read it last week, our brilliant Manager of Marketing, Megan, wrote a blog about how to use hashtags.  I read it with enthusiasm, learned about ‘to do’s’ and ‘not to do’s’. I’m going to say that this blog post is the prequel. I dedicate the next few paragraphs to those who still don’t get it! Rather than answer ‘how to use hashtags’, I wanted to shed some light on what a hashtag is.

Let’s start with defining the hashtag: If you’re a social media novice, hashtags — those short links preceded by the pound sign (#) — may seem confusing and unnecessary. But they are integral to the way we communicate online, and it’s important to know how to use them. Plus, they can be a lot of fun.

On Twitter, the pound sign (or hash) turns any word or group of words that directly follow it into a searchable link. This allows you to organize content and track discussion topics based on those keywords. So, if you wanted to post about the upcoming season of House of Cards, you would include #HouseOfCards in your tweet to join the conversation. Click on a hashtag to see all the posts that mention the subject in real time.

A little history:  The hashtag’s widespread use began with Twitter but has extended to other social media platforms. In 2007, developer Chris Messina proposed, in a tweet, that Twitter begin grouping topics using the hash symbol. Twitter initially rejected the idea. But in October 2007, citizen journalists began using the hashtag #SanDiegoFire, at Messina’s suggestion, to tweet updates on a series of forest fires in San Diego. The practice of hashtagging took off; now users and brands employ hashtags to cover serious political events (#GOPDebate) and entertainment topics (#TaylorSwift) alike.

What platforms support hashtags? Here’s the Top 3:
Twitter: Twitter is the birthplace of modern hashtag usage — as such, its hashtags are more versatile than other sites. Twitter hashtags are mainly used to denote specific topics of conversation; the “Trends” sidebar of your Twitter feed curates a list of hashtags you might be interested in, based on your tweets. When you search for a hashtag on Twitter, there are three ways to filter the results. The “Top” option displays the most relevant and popular posts, including those from users you don’t follow. “All” shows you every tweet that uses the specific hashtag in real time, and “People you follow” will only display results from users you are following.

Facebook: Facebook added hashtag support in June 2013. Clicking on Facebook hashtags will take you to a list of posts containing the same hashtag. The results are not limited to people you know.

Instagram: Hashtags can be used to complement photos shared on Instagram and help you discover new accounts and pick up followers. Some hashtags were created specifically for Instagram photo challenges — #ThrowbackThursday, for example, encourages users to post retro photos.

Curious which hashtags are trending across social media? This link: http://bit.ly/1oB4OwA tells you which tags are trending in real time.

But, you ask, hashtagging for business? Absolutely! If you’re still not convinced, Todd Wasserman put together a great article reflecting 6 wildly successful hashtag campaigns by reputable companies and concepts.

Now that you know the definition, the history and on what platforms you can use a hashtag, you’re ready to learn ‘how’ to use hashtags. For that, I’ll leave it to the real expert and suggest you scroll back to the top and read Megan’s post on how to use hashtags.



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