How #hashtags work, and how you can use them (Part 1)

Fernand Fenech - Web Design, Development and Consultancy

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

At first, posting content #like #this may seem confusing and unnecessary. With so much content being posted on the Internet and especially on social media, it was getting very difficult to organize content. Back in 2007, Twitter was the social media channel that started using the hash symbol to group and categorize the millions of tweets being posted by its users. Other social media platforms, like Facebook, Google Plus and Instagram soon followed suit.

Thus, hashtags provide an effective way for content to be grouped, and also allows users to join and monitor a conversation on social media. Thus, one can for example discuss a certain television series, such as #gameofthrones. Show viewers can comment about an episode while grouping the comment under that hashtag category. For example, one may write “now that was a great #gameofthrones episode!”. In turn, everyone (depending on privacy settings) can see this comment together with thousands of other comments using the same #gameofthrones on the selected social media channel. Twitter, for example, has a section on the side called ‘Trends’, showing all the trending and popular hashtags being used at that particular period of time. This is also a way that users can get to know about certain subjects and issues that other people are talking about, such as new product launches or events.

For the complete novice, as stated in the paragraph above, you can join an existing discussion using a hashtag people are already using, or you may create your own, and encourage people to use it. This is great if you have a new campaign, event or product launch coming up and wish to create some hype. One important point when creating a hashtag is to not include spaces. Thus if you would like to differentiate between words, feel free to capitalize the first letter of every word (e.g. Apple Watch becomes #AppleWatch).

In addition to spaces, you cannot use punctuation marks, such as commas, apostrophes, full-stops, exclamation or question marks. Also forget special symbols like asterisks and brackets. Numbers are allowed on certain social media channels, but the extent depends on the social media channel being used (e.g. Google Plus does not support a hashtag with numbers only included like #2015).

In the next tutorial, we will have a look at how the main social media channels use hashtags and how you can use them for your brand.

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