(Update) #Hashtags: for Beginners

by Charity on January 4, 2010

Love Hashtags

Update: Since the original date of this post, there have been changes to the tools posted above and therefore there were broken links. WhatTheHashtag has been an unreliable resource.

If you’re new to Twitter, I’m sure you have seen that # sign. Some people call that a pound sign, and that’s okay. But on Twitter, # is a hashtag. In this post, I will explain what hashtags are, how to use them, and a few tips and tricks.

A hashtag is:

A hashtag is a keyword preceded by a # sign. We use these on Twitter to track conversations on specific topics. Some of my favorite topics are #socialmedia, #mfi, #AptChat, and #blogchat.

Hashtags are also a great way to determine trending topics on Twitter. You can view these trending topics on the right side of your screen when logged in to Twitter or just by visiting Twitter.com.

How to use a hashtag:

Searching with hashtags.

The whole point of using hashtags is to be able to communiate directly with others on a particular topic. We do this by searching for hashtags in use, then responding and including the hashtag within the response.

There are different ways to search with hashtags. Search.Twitter.com is excellent, or if you’re signed in to Twitter.com, search is made easy on the right side of your screen or simply click on the hashtag. There are also tools that can be used to track hashtags, and chats.

What’s a Tweet Chat?

A Tweet Chat is a scheduled event on Twitter where individuals determine a specific time and hashtag. Then they tweet related messages using the hashtag to identify their participation in the conversation. There are several tools you can use to follow along with a Tweet Chat.

Tweetdeck can be modified to include a Twitter search column for a specific keyword or hashtag. The downside to Tweetdeck is that there is a limit to how many tweets you can read within an hour.

TweetChat.com is very convenient for following along and tweeting in a conversation. The best part is that it automatically inserts the hashtag into the tweet so you don’t have to. The negative is that sometimes it moves too slowly to keep up with the conversation.

What the Hashtag is also great for looking up statistics on hashtags. Try it now: Click here and in the search box (upper left) type in AptChat. Note the description, related hashtags, the Twitter activity, and the most frequent users of the hashtag? You can also get a transcript of all public tweets including #AptChat, join in with a tweet of your own, and subscribe to an RSS feed of tweets that can be delivered into your email inbox for convenience.

A few more Tweet Chat tools include TweetGrid, Monitter, and Twitterfall.

Create a hashtag:

When possible, use hashtags you know already exist. If you need a to create a hashtag for your brand, it is acceptable to do so. For example, my friend Brent Williams with MultifamilyInsiders.com created the hashtag #mfi to label tweets to/from the community. There aren’t hashtag police, but please don’t get too ‘creative’! What I mean is, don’t over-complicate it. Use as few words as possible, unless you’re trying to be funny #imjustsayin and #dontIknowit!

Placement of a hashtag:

The biggest complaints I read about hashtags are that people use too many per tweet or that they place them at the beginning of the tweet. Too many hashtags within tweets can make tweets appear spammy. Pick 1 or 2, but no more than 3. Remember, the more hashtags in the tweet, the less room for the message.

Try to keep hashtags at the end of the tweet unless you are substituting words within the tweet with a hashtag. For example: I loved the article on #mfi today (link here). Otherwise, it would look like this: I loved this article (link here). #mfi

Avoiding hashtag spammers:

Hashtag spam is a growing problem on Twitter. Basically, a spammer will see a trending hashtag on Twitter, then use the hashtag to spread their spam in order to gain more click-thru’s. My advice regarding spammers: Quickly block and report spammers to keep them from your tweet stream.

Another new solution that I’ve noticed recently is that some Tweet Chats are changing their hashtags weekly to decrease spam. Spam is particularly irritating when you have a limited number of tweets you can view (API limitations).

Tips for hashtags:

To break it all down:

  • Use hashtags to communicate with others on a specific topic.
  • Create hashtags that make sense.
  • Place hashtags at the end of your tweets.
  • Use only 1-2 hashtags per tweet.
  • Don’t be a spammer, only use hashtags if they apply to your tweet.

Do you have any other advice to share regarding hashtags? Or any questions you need answered?

For more infomation on hashtags, Mashable has an informative post.

Photo Credit: Tony Gigov

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