Many of the people I speak to at conferences don’t understand what a hashtag is, where it comes from, and what it’s used for. In today’s digital landscape a basic understanding of the concept is needed so we can make educated decision on how to best use it. So I wrote the following post as a quick intro.
A Little History
It was in July 2009 that Twitter took over the hashtag technology when it was realized that this was a clever trick invented by its users. What did Twitter do? They turned the hashtags to anchored text or hyperlinks. When the hyperlink is clicked, it goes directly to a series of tweets containing the same hashtag. You can also go to Twitter and search for specific hashtags, which is an easy way to find any topic on Twitter.
Twitter improved the hashtag technology in 2010 by adding Trending Topics for users to see what people were talking about across the globe. By doing this, popular hashtags would go directly to the top of the list of trending topics. Something went terribly wrong soon after. People began to make the trending topic useless by using weird hashtags such as “#ThingsUSed2UrGirlLastNight.” There was nothing newsworthy about this. It was time to re-invent the wheel.
Twitter is now diligently sifting through and deleting useless hashtags from its trending topics. It has also better localized each topic. So now it has become quite more useful to users.
Hashtag is a preferred tool used in conferences, marketers and by organizers of major events. However, it is valuable to Twitter users who want to organize themselves. The hashtag #followfriday, for example, spreads details around Twitter while organizing those details. If users decide to affix a specific hashtag to a tweet about a certain topic, then the topic becomes relevant and can be found easily in the search topic. More than likely, you will be able to see the topic listed in the trending topics.
More about Hashtags
So how do you make sense of all this? You need to know how to track, classify, use and efficiently organize hashtags to get the most out of this technology. If you are using a hashtag for a joke, this can be fun, but remember that a hashtag is searchable and ideal to brand a topic or sift through conversations.
Certain Twitter apps are able to mute out hashtags in order to prevent chatter that you don’t particularly want to see. For example, if you don’t like to see tweets of live sports games, you could use the hashtag mute#sports. However, in order to make that work, everyone else would have to use the hashtag #sports in their sports tweets. If you tweet about a certain topic quite frequently, use a generally good hashtag. Followers are able to mute it if they really don’t care about the topic.
Figuring it all out
When a hashtag gets trendy, it becomes even more difficult to analyze the information stream. Here are some ways to know what is trending and which hashtags deserve your attention.
What the Trend at http://www.whatthetrend.com– this valuable service helps you to discover more about trending hashtags. Once something begins to trend, this service provides a short blurb about it.
Tweeting Trends at http://twitter.com/tweetingtrends takes you directly to the current trends on Twitter.com.
Twitter’s official search page for trending topics can be found at http://search.twitter.com.
Twubs at http://www.twubs.com broadcasts information about a hashtag. It combines tweets to highlight discussed topics.
Http://hashtags.org helps to show you the use of a hashtag over a period of time and recent tweets. It provides enough details to figure out the hashtag’s meaning.
Tagalus at http://tagal.us is a thesaurus of hashtags, which have been defined by users.
If you want to track a tweet in real time from a hashtag, resources like Twitterfall can assist you.
Even though not awfully complex, hashtags have some unwritten guidelines such as not overusing them. People will think that you are spamming. Put your hashtags into context, which means that you should provide an explanation in your tweet so people will know what your hashtag means. Make sure your hashtag is worthwhile to you and to your followers.
If you need help figuring our how Twitter and Hashtags fit into your digital strategy, contact Daniel Burns today for a free consultation.