Why and How to Use Hashtags on Twitter
January 23, 2017
I often talk to my friends about why they do or don’t use a certain piece of technology or app. The reasons often differ, but one takeaway is very clear – there’s a lot of confusion regarding hashtags. The key phrase I always hear is, “What’s the point?” I’ve come here today to give you some good reasons why you might want to learn.
A hashtag is the use of the pound (#) or number symbol on your keyboard immediately before a word or phrase with no spaces. Now widely used on many social media platforms, it started on Twitter as a means to tag topics, people, trends, photos and more. It’s also made it easy to see related tweets, even from people you're not following.
It's widely used now in many other social media platforms, but the concept of the hashtag originated on Twitter by the users as a way of easily categorizing tweets and finding related information very quickly. (If you view the Trends bar on Twitter, you’ll see a list of currently popular hashtags that you ca click on.)
In the following Tweet, notice that the two phrases designed with the hashtag are clickable links. All the user had to do was type the text that way. Twitter takes care of the rest.
Clicking on a hashtag in a tweet will take you to other tweets that have that hashtag - it’s just like running a search.
It may not look like much in the above example, but hashtags can be a very powerful tool. It’s a great way to see what other people are talking about when you want to follow current events, news, national or world events.
Hashtags can be incredibly useful during a crises situation to get up-to-the-second eyewitness or news coverage. It can also be fun during a live television broadcast like the Oscars.
Here’s a brief rundown on hashtag use in Twitter:
- There can't be any spaces in your hashtags, and they always have to start with the pound sign. Twitter helps you by including a list of possible popular hashtags you can choose from while you’re typing, though you certainly don’t have to use those.
- You can have more than one hashtag per tweet like the example I used in the first screenshot. However, hashtags count against your 140 character limit, so keeping them short will help you compose a longer tweet. It’s also important to keep in mind that the more hashtags you add, the harder it can become to make sense out of a tweet as it’s harder to read.
- A hashtag doesn't have to be at the end of a tweet - In fact, it can become part of it. You can create a hashtag out of any text provided it doesn't have a space in it. You’ll need to get creative! Sometimes that involves coming up with a new way to represent that word or phrase. Now other users can click on this link and see any other tweets related to Los Angeles, and people I don’t follow can view my tweet and provide recommendations.
Oh, and one last rule about hashtags – you can make up your own rules!
Hashtags can be funny. They can be useful. And you can absolutely make up a completely new, never-been-used-before hashtag while you're typing your tweet. You may click on a hashtag to find out that you're the only person who's ever used it, and that is completely okay in the Twitter world.