What is a #hashtag ?

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After a recent presentation, I got a couple requests on an article about hashtags. So let’s take a Hashtag journey.

If you’re a social media rookie and don’t understand hashtags (those words followed by a #) they may seem confusing and unnecessary. But they are important to the way we communicate online, and it’s important to know how to use them.

On Twitter, the pound sign (or hash) turns any word or group of words that directly follow it into a searchable link. This allows you to organize content and track discussion topics based on those keywords. So, if you wanted to post about the American Idol finale, you would include #AmericanIdol in your tweet to join the conversation. Click on a hashtag to see all the posts that mention the subject in real time. This will allow you to see multiple users that have also typed the same #americanidol hashtag. Almost like a way to search words that are associated with a topic.

The hashtag’s widespread use began with Twitter but has extended to other social media platforms and will continue to spread.

In 2007, developer Chris Messina proposed, in a tweet, that Twitter begin grouping topics using the hash symbol. Twitter initially rejected the idea. But in October 2007, citizen journalists began using the hashtag #SanDiegoFire, at Messina’s suggestion, to tweet updates on a series of forest fires in San Diego. The practice of hashtagging took off; now users and brands employ hashtags to cover serious political events (#presidentialection) or events (#2014olympics)

Numbers are supported, so tweet about #50Tophits for music. However, punctuation marks are not, so commas, periods, exclamation points, question marks and apostrophes are out. Forget about asterisks, or any other character.

Keep in mind that the @ symbol does something completely different. Using @ before a person’s Twitter handle will tweet at him directly, letting him know you have written to him via the @Connect tab. A hashtag will not. Sometimes users will hashtag a celebrity’s name instead of using her Twitter handle — it is acceptable to tweet #Mileycyrus or @mileycyrus. But if you are trying to reach someone directly, don’t use a hashtag.

There is no preset list of hashtags. Create a brand new hashtag simply by putting the hash before a series of words, and if it hasn’t been used before, and the You’ve invented your first hashtag.

Remember hashtaging is also a trend that kids are using on social media platforms that don’t necessarily recognize them as a way to search, but kids want to be funny with them.

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