Have you wondered why people put # in front of words within their tweets? These are called Twitter hashtags. What are Twitter hashtags? They started as a means to organize tweets and events. Now Twitter #Hashtags are used to easily find things that may be of interest to you, similar to keyword searches.
Making sense with Twitter #Hashtags
The hash, pound, or number, “#”, sign was originally used in Twitter to categorize posts—this preceded any word or series of words not separated by a space. For example, if I tweet “I’m writing an article about social media and I want to make that a hashtag, I simply place a # in front and remove the space between social and media i.e. #SocialMedia and it becomes a clickable and searchable Twitter hashtag. I can then do a Twitter search and see who else is using this hashtag. This is great for tracking a trending topic in real time.
Twitter #hashtags are more like personal labels (making no sense to the average person) than keywords because many are unique and some don’t last long. The hashtag was actually invented by Twitter users to make sense of trends since tweets are not like your ordinary chat where you can easily follow the thread of a discussion all in one place.
With the hashtag, tweeters can search who else used the hashtag they have and the context of where the hashtag was used.
Since Twitter #hashtags can link together posts from many people, they are a great for events in three ways:
• Promoting the event months before it happens;
• Tracking or reporting what’s happening in an event tweeted in real time; and
• Collecting all these tweets so one can have something to write about after the event.
Event organizers need only to create a short catchy label describing the event, turn it into a # hashtag, and use the hashtag consistently in promotional materials—tickets, flyers, t-shirts—and encourage its use by everyone involved, including those attending, via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. A great example of this is #eatdrinktweet an event that was started by Allison Markin of Penticton, BC where she started a social media conference with a culinary twist.
Super Twitter #Hashtags
On a more serious note, the Arab Spring protests that toppled several Middle Eastern regimes used Twitter #hashtags too: #Egypt, #Jan25, #Libya, #Bahrain and #protest. The top Occupy Wallstreet protest hashtags are #occupywallstreet #ows #occupywallst #occupy #occupyboston #takewallstreet #p2 and #nypd.
Lately, Twitter #hashtags have been used for making fun of political figures and issues. U.S. President Barack Obama’s “We can’t wait” campaign, for example, was promptly turned into the #WeCantWait hashtag, now used both by supporters and detractors. US presidential hopefuls are also not spared — Mitt Romney’s perceived low credibility is made fun of with #ImRunningForOfficeForPetesSake. Try this, search twitter for #SarahPalin.
Well there you have it, at least you now know what are Twitter hashtags.
Hashta la vista
How do you track Twitter #hashtags? Here are some online tools to do it:
• What the Trend?
Each of these tools have their own strengths and weaknesses. Try them out when tracking Twitter #hashtags you’re interested in and see which combination of tools works for you.