Twitter Hashtags

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 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.

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.)

By December, there was an unofficial directory: In January 2013, the American Dialect Society voted hashtag as its word of the year.

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+.

Best practices

  • 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:

Hashtag directories

 Explainers, examples




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