What is a #hashtag?
A hashtag is a word or a phrase prefixed with the # (hash) symbol and is a form of metadata tag. Hashtags are used across many microblogging social networking sites including Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Google+. This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found by browsing or searching. It is a useful tool to group certain topics on social media so users can search for things they want to find.
Using Twitter as an example, if a user searched for #cake in the search box they would be faced with a list of tweets about cake, maybe some from bakeries and professional cake bakers. Being more specific in your search terms can often help you with what you’re looking for – trying #cakerecipe in the search box would get you tweets with recipes for making cakes.
This is a useful way to make your tweets more visible to everyone on social networking who wants to see them, not just those who follow you. You can create your own hashtag, but it is worth seeing if one already exists on a topic first. Don’t be tempted to hijack a popular hashtag and post something unrelated just to gain exposure, this will harm your reputation and annoy other users. You can use more than one hash tag in a tweet if it contains more than one subject area, but most experts recommend two or three at most, providing they all refer to similar or relevant issues. Using too many or irrelevant hashtags can mean your message is misunderstood or even perceived as spam.
Alternatively, if you are the one searching for a topic to read about, typing a hashtag into the search bar will allow you to quickly and easily scan a list of things that other users have said on the topic. Conferences, sporting events, TV programmes etc. will have ‘official’ hashtags to allow users to join in with a conversation without having to follow everyone involved.
Sky have come up with an interesting way to help their customers in Brazil quickly and easily record their favourite TV shows by using a hashtag. Users must first register their Twitter handles on Sky’s website, and then they can use the hashtag #SkyRec to record shows on their home television. This is great for Sky as they can build awareness for their brand through users tweeting about them and their programming, reaching out to new customers and showing a wider audience what they offer. It is of course convenient for the user too – recording shows from wherever they are just by tweeting. However, if someone recorded twenty shows a day, this #SkyRec hashtag may start to clog up theirs and their follower’s news feeds. That may be an issue for people who have no interest in hearing about Sky and their friend’s unhealthy addiction to Desperate Housewives.