A Hashtag Tutorial & Tribute

This is the 1st post in my “Taking Twitter to the Next Level” – series. If you have a question or issue you’d like for me to address just tweet me (@tsudo) or leave a comment below.

There are many things I adore about twitter I adore. It’s speed, mobility and hashtags.

Yes. Hashtags.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone more passionate about hashtags than I am. I’m a hashtag evangelist which is a fancy way of saying that I want to open your eyes to expanding the conversation on twitter.

This is the why and how of hashtags. A tribute and tutorial.

What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a short bit of text preceded by the pound sign (#). It’s added to a tweet so it will be easier to find when searching twitter. Hashtags are used in a variety of ways but the goal is usually to organize conversations and make them more visible on twitter.

It was born out of an idea by @chrismessina and has blossomed into an amazing way to connect with others interested in the same subject or event.

Example:

Nothing severe in Region 8, but look at the Tornado Warning on I-30: http://twitpic.com/2ml4tr #ARWXThu Sep 09 02:48:56 via Weather Central Updates

The #ARWX added to the end of @Ryanvaughn’s tweet means this tweet shows up if someone searches for #ARwx. #ARwx is a widely used hashtag for Arkansas weather.

Why You Should Care About Hashtags.

Hashtags offer distinct advantages when you are looking for information (or conversation) and publishing information.

Higher quality Tweets

I’m a tennis fan and currently there is a little tournament being played in New York City called the U.S. Open. So if I want information about what is happening or looking for others interested in tennis I have 2 choices. I can search for “US Open” or “#USopen”. Let’s look at the difference in the results.

nonhash_search withhash_search

The first set of “US Open” results does have some tennis related tweets but compared to the “#USopen” results that aren’t as useful. By definition the hashtag search means I’m going to see tweets by people that bothered using the hashtag and the result is more info and more interest.

Multiple Source Stream

Hashtags are unique because they create an information stream from everyone on twitter. The conversation isn’t limited to your pre-existing network.

Using #ARwx as an example – To get even close to the same information on Facebook I’d have to “like” several news stations and put up with a lot of noisy updates just to get a few updates when the weather turns severe. Even then I’d get a mere fraction of the information in the #ARwx stream. When storms arrive I fire up a search for #ARwx and I’m instantly plugged in to some of the highest quality weather reports in the state.

Whatever the subject or event the hashtag stream creates an instant shared interest network.

More Visibility for your own tweets

When it comes to sharing content the flipside of this equation works on your behalf because using a hashtag properly can give your tweet more visibility. People that don’t follow you may be searching for #Wordpress, #QR, or #USopen and by adding the appropriate tag your tweet shows up in their search stream.

They might click your link or even follow you all because you were savvy enough to use a hashtag and contribute interesting or useful content.

How to make the most of Hashtags.

There are two rules when it comes to hashtags.

  • Find the most correct tag
  • Use it

When it comes to identifying the right tag there isn’t a single method but here are a few guidelines:

  • If you are looking for a TV show or televised event look at the station’s official Twitter account to see if they are using a hashtag. If they aren’t ask them.
  • If your are looking for a subject tag try Googling “subject hashtag” and see if there is one defined, if not look to see what is used most commonly in your community.
  • If you aren’t sure try multiple tags and ask which one you should be using.

If you are an event organizer please, please, please define a hashtag and use it.

A great example of how NOT to do it is @usopen, the official account hasn’t used the hashtag once. There tweets are invisible to people watching the hashtag stream and it is to their own detriment.

If you want people to talk about you or your event you have to tell them HOW to talk about you.

Here’s how to define a tag.

  • Tweet it – Tell people exactly what hashtag you’ll be using and invite them to use it as well when talking about the event.
  • Print it – If you are holding a conference or seminar your hashtag should be posted on signs and on welcome slides.
  • Tell it – In your conference introduction make sure to mention your hashtag.
  • Define it – There isn’t a single hashtag definition source but personally I recommend using wthashtag.com. You can define the tag, link to official twitter accounts and websites, and even provide transcripts of hashtag usage.
  • (PS – when creating a hashtag make it short and simple)

A final word

There is no right way to use twitter but here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Don’t overuse them. I don’t know of any reason why you would ever need more than 2 hashtags in a single tweet.
  • Some people use hashtags as a method of adding humor and context and when done well its quite funny. Done well is the tricky party.
  • If there is a serious conversation around a hurricane or fire don’t tag your witty tweets. You are creating noise when it is not needed.
  • There are a lot of inane hashtag memes that turn into trending topics feel free to pretend they don’t exist.

Hashtags are an amazing way to broaden your conversations and get quality information about real-time events.

Give them a try and join the global conversation.

4 responses to “A Hashtag Tutorial & Tribute”

  1. […] And you would know the week I take off from Twitter is the week that @ChrisMessina shares my Twitter hashtag post. […]

  2. Superb article. Hashtags make Twitter what it is, in my honest opinion. I do love a good trending topic.

  3. […] I’ve long been an evangelist for the #ARwx hashtag stream for getting real-time weather information but not everyone uses twitter. What we need is way for anyone to see the latest weather tweets even if they don’t have a clue about hashtags. […]

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