Posted By Cynthia Hartwig on October 11, 2012Lots of beginners have trouble understanding Twitter hashtags. We get anxious questions in our Writing for Social Media classes all the time. What are they? How do you use them? Do I look like an idiot if my tweets don’t have them?
A Twitter Hashtag is just a Searchable Tag or Keyword Preceded by the # Sign.
Back in Twitter-yore (eons ago, like maybe three years?), hashtags developed as the signposts that helped people discover breaking news and topics. Think “# + keyword= hashtag.” But don’t let the techie definition fool you. Hashtags are elegant and supple writing tools.
Understand That Hashtags are Tools for Search.
Hashtags from #arabspring to #Syriabombings to #S.E.Asianearthquake all sprung up in recent history to give people a way to find, react and discuss world events. In last week’s Presidential debate, #mittwins and #obamatanked trended in Twitter popularity. If something great or terrible happens in your local area, you, too, can start a #breakingnews hashtag and lead a searchable discussion.
Understand That Hashtags Help Spread the Word Beyond your Followers.
Hashtags also help you find many ongoing conversations on everything from #pubtibs to #Twitter101 to #weedkillers. These discussions wax and wane, depending on who wants to join in. Find #hashtags in your area of expertise and you have an instantaneous way to share your wisdom beyond your following.
Say you’re a writer, like I am; you can use hashtags like #amwriting and #writetips to deliver tweets about writerly pain or gain or wisdom. If you design children’s rooms, like my pal @elizabethtraub, you can tweet about morphing a toddler’s room into a teenager’s room on #kidrooms or #shabbychic. Like gardening? Look for robust conversations on #gardeningadvice and #weedkillers.
Understand That Hashtags are Great for Twitticisms.
My favorite Twitter nuance is how hashtags have developed as a tool for word play and social commentary. In a good writer’s hands, a hashtag can help you earn a reputation as a Twit Wit.
The tweet from Professor Snape, for example won the “best tweet on Oscar night” award.
You’ll often see people playing word games with hashtags like the #beatlesplants hashtags below.(As if we didn’t have plenty of other ways to waste time!)
What’s Your Favorite Hashtag?