The # (pound) symbol is called a hashtag and is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. It was created by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages and then adopted by Twitter and third-party tools. Because hashtags are hyperlinked on Twitter.com and are searchable, they serve as a form of findability. Precursors to Twitter hashtags: tags on Delicious and Flickr.
In the beginning, there weren’t enough people or tweets to worry about organization.
just setting up my twttr
— Jack Dorsey (@jack) March 21, 2006
But as Twitter took off in popularity, organization became a need. (Note, at this point in time, Twitter is not even a year old in terms of public access.)
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina™ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
Key things to know about hashtags
- Capitalization doesn’t matter but spaces and punctuation/special characters do (don’t use either)
- Hashtags must have letters; all numbers will not work so append them to your letters
- Placement doesn’t matter
- Sometimes hashtags are intended as editorial commentary rather than as a method of findability
- Hashtags associated with breaking news or crises are often trending topics. For example, #welcometotheworld (for the new royal baby).
- Although hashtags were popularized on Twitter, they are now incorporated on many other digital networks such as Facebook and Instagram and Google+.
- Don’t over hash. Except when it makes sense to do so!
- Use simple, memorable hashtags for predictable events. Twitter has some examples.
- Pick a hashtag that works across platforms.
Hashtags and communities
Regular discussion communities revolve around hashtags on Twitter and other digital networks. Some that might be of interest to folks dropping in here:
- #breaking – typically used for breaking news
- #dfmchat – Digital First Media chat each Wednesday
- #edchat (analytics) – education chat
- #edtech (analytics) – education technology
- #FOIA (analytics) – Freedom of Information Act
- #gov20 (analytics) – government 2.0
- #highered (analytics) – higher ed (general)
- #jtech (analytics) – journalism and technology
- #journalism (analytics) – journalism (very general)
- #opendata (analytics) – open data
- #opengov (analytics) – open government
- #pubmedia (analytics) – public media
- #ipad (analytics) – iPad (very general)
- #wjchat (analytics) – web journalism chat on Wednesdays
- CDC Hashtag Directory – Centers for Disease Control
- Government-related hashtags – from GovLoop
- Hashtag definitions
- Hashtags.org – history of hashtags, analytics, trending topics
- Inside Higher Ed – searchable/browsable directory
- Twitter chats – a comprehensive list of almost 700 Twitter chats with hashtags, schedule and details:
- Twubs – categorized directory
- WhatTheTrend – tracks, defines trending hashtags
- Use #ihate84 Twitter hashtag to share pain, alert motorists of weekend problems, Oregonian, July 2013
- Facebook debuts hashtags, AdWeek, June 2013
- The all-knowing, very searchable saturated world of the hashtag, Digital Trends, April 2013
- Hashtags help journalists find relevant tweets and reach more people, Steve Buttry, July 2012