If you are on Twitter and Instagram, you have probably noticed, and hopefully used, hashtags (#). On your phone it’s known as the pound key and looks like a mini Tic Tac Toe game, apparently it is now a baby name as well. Hashtags were first used in the late 80′s within Internet Relay Chat networks to label topics and groups, and the practice was adopted by Twitter users in 2007. Chris Messina (@chrismessina) claims to be the #godfather as it was his tweet that started it all and Wikipedia backs this up. In 2009 Twitter turned all hashtagged words into hyperlinks to search results for that keyword, making it even easier to find connected tweets.
Hashtags are used on Twitter to highlight keywords to group tweets so that discussions, events, groups and trending topics can be searched. When I attended Blog Her Food 2012 in Seattle, the organizers chose #blogherfood as the official hashtag and listed it in all their media. This was adopted by most of the Twitter users when tweeting about the conference, but some attendees still used #blogherfood12 or #blogherfood2012. By using these hashtags, it was much easier to find, follow and ReTweet or reply to our fellow conference goers and made for lots of interesting and hilarious interactions.
Instagram also uses hashtags as searchable keywords that users can use to tag their photos. When I started using Instagram I didn’t use hashtags and I only received likes or comments on my photos from people who already followed me. Once I started using hashtags in the comments my likes and followers increased. My number of spam comments increased as well, but it’s easy to do an Instagram Comment Cleanup. I recently posted the photo above on Instagram and one of the hashags I used was #herb, as bay leaf is a culinary herb used to season soups and sauces. When I checked out the profiles of some users who liked THIS photo, to see if I want to return the like or follow their images, I found a specific segment of Instagram users was liking it: pot smokers!
Hashtags can also be used to add a touch of humour, emotion or context to a tweet or a photo with no intention of categorization or search-ability. Yes, you can just make up your own!
So, don’t be afraid to use a hashtag or two, just try not to go overboard on Twitter unless it is for comedic effect. The accepted etiquette on Twitter is a maximum of two hashtags per tweet, these can be added to keywords already used in the message or tagged on at the end. On Instagram you can go crazy with the hashtags, but I suggest creating a second comment to load up, especially if you are sharing to Facebook and/or Twitter. Hashtags are not that useful on Facebook for categorizing, but the humour does translate, just not to your grandparents’ generation… at least not yet.
What are the best/worst hashtags you have seen/used?
- 5 great tips for using Twitter hashtags (intranetfuture.com)
- Who owns the hashtag? (It isn’t Twitter) (theverge.com)
- # The Hashtag, Innovation and Social Learning (kakiewrites.wordpress.com)
- Avoiding Hashtag Fails (socialmediatoday.com)
- 44 Essential Twitter Hashtags Every Author Should Know (selfpubbooks.wordpress.com)
- Are Hashtags In Commercials Effective? [Infographic] (sysomos.com)
- Brian Honigman: The 100 Most Popular Hashtags on Instagram (huffingtonpost.com)
- Your Small Business Can Master the Twitter Hashtag (surefiresocial.com)
- Must Know Hashtags for Social Media Marketing (mrkovalenko.wordpress.com)
- Hashtags are #everywhere (drakej70.wordpress.com)