It seems there’s much confusion over Twitter Hashtags for those who are new to Twitter, so I think it’s a good time to write a blog to answer some of the most Frequently Asked Questions I’ve been asked on the topic:
What is a Hashtag?
A Hashtag is simply a word or collection of words that categorize a tweet, embedded as part of the tweet itself. Because a Hashtag is prefaced by a # symbol, the Hashtag becomes a clickable link by which a user can then find other tweets related to that category.
The official definition of a Hashtag from Twitter is “The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.”
What’s the purpose of a Hashtag?
The purpose of a Hashtag is to create an easy way to make tweets “findable”, by categorizing a tweet into one or more topic that users might be searching for.
How Do I Use a Hashtag?
When you post a tweet on Twitter, think of one or more keywords or phrases that describe your tweet and categorize it into in a particuar topic. For example, if I want to post a tweet about the weather in Northern California that looks like this:
“It’s been raining north of San Francisco for more than 10 days now” - an appropriate keyword might be “San Francisco” or “weather”.
So at the end of the tweet, you’ll add this “#SanFrancisco” (no spaces), and/or “#weather”. By preceding the keyword with the # sign , you are activating the word/phrase as a hyperlink that others can then click and search for related information.
Twitter users have come up with some inventive ways to use Hashtags in a variety of other ways.
You can use a Hashtag to “comment” on your own post:
“I love Toy Story 3 #KenIsTheBomb”
or to indicate that you’re joking, like the wink emoticon:
“The sun sets in the east every day. #gotcha”
You can even use a hashtag to comment on a hashtag…
“I love vegetables #justthegreenones #okjustbroccoli #wellokgreenbeanstoo”
What’s the correct format for a Hashtag?
The correct format for a Hashtag is the hash symbol – the “#” (over the number 3 on your keyboard) immediately before a word, or multiple words with no spaces.
The right format: #thebayarea
The wrong format: #the bay area (only the first word will be the hashtag, kind of useless in this case)
A hashtag is case-insensitive, so whether you use capitals or not will not matter, but it’s good etiquette to use “CamelCase”, in other words, capitalize the first letter of each word in the hashtag to maintain legibility.
Best Practices for Hashtags
Hashtags should be used sparingly – as a way to describe your tweet but not overwhelm it. A good practice is to use between one and three hashtags per tweet, to provide context and to allow your tweets to be searched and tracked. More than this, and hashtags can quickly become confusing and even annoying, and may even lead to people unfollowing you on Twitter. Use hashtags to add value to your tweet, not detract from it.