What exactly is a #hashtag?

The hashtag leaves many social media users perplexed as to its true function. Let’s take a more in-depth look at hashtags and the most effective ways they can enhance your social media experience.

The origin of the hashtag can be found in the earliest days of the Internet. Developed to enable communication within discussion forums, they were used to distinguish specific topics and groups. For years, these symbols were buried within the deep recesses of the world wide web, unknown to the masses. That is until 2006, when a soon-to-be revolutionary social media platform was beginning to take shape.

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The world was soon introduced to Twitter, a social networking and microblogging site that allowed users to send short messages. A cornerstone of the site was the ability to search for topics and conversations using hashtags. The word itself was coined in a blog, being described as “Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings”. The rest is, as they say, history.

What You Need to Know to be a #Hashtag Superstar

By attaching a hashtag (#) to a particular word or phrase, you turn it into a searchable link. For example, if you are a fan of the AMC show The Walking Dead, you could pen a tweet with the hashtag #WalkingDead and join any Twitter conversation related to that topic. By doing this, your own tweet would be entered into any search results with the same hashtag. Given the enormous popularity of the program, it would be seen by thousands of Twitter users searching for that hashtag.

From Fortune 500 companies to startups, hashtags allow marketers to focus their message and increase exposure. The best way to get started is to see how others within your industry are using hashtags. Create hashtags that accurately describe what you’re promoting, like #AtlantaRealEstate or #MidYearConference. By doing so, you are allowing your messages to be entered into any search results with the same hashtag. If someone is looking for Atlanta real estate, your tweet will be populated in the search results. Make sure that every tweet you send has relevant hashtags imbedded within so your message will find the amplification it needs. . Users are people too, and if the tweet isn’t relevant, you’ll only garner negative attention.

  • Example of a relevant tweet: “Check out our new rentals in Poncy Highlands! http://bit.ly/17lwkSs #AtlantaRentals”
  • Example of non-relevant tweet: “Check out our new rentals in Poncy Highlands! http://bit.ly/17lwkSs #superbowl #catchingfire”

Hashtags are seemingly everywhere today. You may notice them prominently displayed on screen during a Sunday night football game or on a label of your favorite cereal. Companies and individuals alike have come to embrace the usability these symbols in their social media experience. We encourage you to take a hashtag test drive on Twitter. See what you come up with and then game plan how you can effectively use hashtags to further your message. Good luck, and happy hashtagging!