Hashtagging originated in 2007, the same year that Twitter launched. Though the practice has been around for seven years, there are still some questions about how to use them, why to use them, and what they really mean. And the use of hashtags has evolved over the years. Consider this a crash course in hashtagging.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or string of words (no spaces) preceded by the pound symbol (#) used in social media posts. Example: #hashtagging101

Using a hashtag automatically creates a clickable link that takes you to a page of search results within the social media network from which you clicked. The search results includes all posts using that hashtag that you clicked. One thing to note: if a user’s feed is private, that user’s posts will not show up in these search results unless you are one of their approved followers.

Social networks that support hashtags include: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+.

Why is it used?

The primary purpose of a hashtag is to track conversations about a specific topic without having to follow/fan every person that is using that hashtag. Some of the early use-cases for a hashtag were for use during times of emergency or disaster as a way to find people that need help and to direct people to resources and aid.

As hashtag use has evolved and become an integrated part of our culture, it gets used to add context, humor, voice, or commentary to a post. I tend to think of it as something you say in parenthesis or “under your breath.”

How can you use it?

As marketers, hashtags are a great way to pick up on trends. Twitter shares trending topics; dig into those conversations to understand what it is all about and then figure out how your brand can become part of the conversation by using the hashtag.

Consider creating your own movement and giving it a hashtag. Follow how it is used and discover new things about your brand and connect with loyal customers.

What are some tips?

Keep it short. Long hashtags are prone to typos and make it too complicated to use them.

Consider capitalizing key words for easier readability. Hashtag searches are not case sensitive.

Add context. A hashtag can’t stand on its own. Be sure your message helps explain the hashtag.

Don’t overuse hashtags in a single post. A hashtag on every word is annoying and useless. Use the hashtag judiciously.

I talked a bit about hashtags with KTHV. Watch the video here: