So what exactly is a #hashtag? By definition a hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. It has become an invaluable tool that is used throughout many of today’s most popular social media sites, much the same as keywords are used in search engine marketing.

Hashtag’s first originated on Twitter when developer Chris Messina tweeted that users should begin grouping topics using the hash symbol. It took a little while for this trend to start though but once it took off people started using hashtags for political events, entertainment, and sports.

download (1)Using a hashtag instantly puts your tweet into a searchable group with the topic you have tagged. This has become very popular in the entertainment and sports world. For example, if you shared your opinion about the Grammys on Twitter with the hashtag #Grammys at the end, it would instantly group your post together with everyone else tweeting about the subject.

The reasoning behind all of this is so you can search these trending topics and see what people are saying, again, like using a keyword or phrase in search. Did you miss the season finale of your favorite show “The Walking Dead?” You can search #thewalkingdead or #thewalkingdeadfinale to find out and see how people are reacting to it.

Twitter may have been the birthplace of the hashtag, but it has carried over to other social media platforms as well. Instagram has created its own trending topic hashtags such as #TBT or #throwbackthursday. Facebook has also updated so you can search hashtags.

If you’re new to social media, there are some things to keep in mind when hashtagging.

    • Always use the # sign at the beginning (#AaronRodgers) but keep in mind that it is very different from using the @ symbol which is primarily used to tweet other users directly.

  • Never use spaces. You want to mention the whole subject in one line (#breakingbadfinale). If you wish to distinguish different words in a hashtag, you can use capitalization (#BreakingBadFinale).
  • Only use words. You do not want to include any other symbols such as periods, commas, or asterisk because it may not be placed in your intended category. (#Obama is different than #Obama. ).

When tweeting from a business or company profile you want to try and follow these guidelines:

  • Hashtag about relevant things. If you are a technology company, you want to try and keep your hashtags in the technology field.
  • Don’t overload on hashtags. You don’t want your hashtags to be longer than your actual tweet. Try to keep it to about 1-3 hashtags for optimal use.
  • Follow the trends. Doing so will group you together with what is streaming at the time. This can help you get noticed by other people that are following the same trend which could lead to them following you or potentially being a customer.
  • If you create your own hashtags and they begin to trend, your followers may begin using it themselves.
  • Creating your own hashtags can be humorous. (Just spilled my coffee this morning. What a great start to the day! #justkidding).

Hashtagging is a great way to explore new content such as news, people, product opinions, what movies you should see, and more. It connects like-minded individuals while opening the doors to new discoveries making it one of the most useful tools for all social media users.

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