This is the first part of a two-part post dedicated to the Twitter hashtag. Part one will cover a basic history and different uses of the hashtag; part two will discuss how to follow conversations via hashtag and uses in Social PR.
The hashtag (#) was invented organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages. #Hashtagging a word allows those tweets to show more easily in Twitter Search, linking alongside other Tweets with the same hashtag – essentially spreading information while organizing it. Popular hashtags often become trending topics on Twitter.
Why it is used
The hashtag on Twitter is commonly used for three reasons:
1.) Perhaps most interestingly, inane hashtags have worked their way into tweets serving as commentary, a disclaimer, or a punch line. For example:
Without the hashtags clarifying that I was in fact, camping and clearly outside my comfort zone, the tweet wouldn’t have made sense. Obviously, in this case I was not using the hashtag to connect with any one else who happened to be in a #wtfcamping situation.
As The New Yorker Magazine writer Susan Orlean observes, “This particular hashtaggery is weirdly amusing, because, for some reason, starting any phrase with a hashtag makes it look like it’s being muttered into a handkerchief; when you read it you feel like you’ve had an intimate moment in which the writer leaned over and whispered in your ear.”
2.) For more productive purposes, many conferences and webcasts have a designated hashtag, used to communicate questions (during sessions or otherwise) or to allow attendees to ‘tweet up’ – that is, make plans via Twitter to meet up IRL (which is to say, in real life #nerdalert)
Next week’s hashtag post will dive a little deeper, exploring how businesses and brands are using them in their Social PR efforts. Happy Friday!