If you’ve ever wondered what the phrases following a pound sign on Twitter were, you’re not alone. Those are called hashtags, and by placing them behind a pound sign (also known as a hash symbol), the words or phrases become linkable and also searchable via Twitter.
In order to be effective, hashtags have to be one continuous phrase with no spaces in between. They are not case sensitive, so you can write them any way you want and they’ll generate the same results.
How do they work?
As previously mentioned, hashtags allow keywords or phrases to become searchable and linkable. Let’s say you wanted to search Twitter for the NFL draft. If you type NFL draft into Twitter’s search field, you would generate a few results that contain mentions of the NFL draft. However, instead of the basic term, search for the hashtag #nfldraft. Once you do this, the hashtag will transform to become clickable. If you click on a hashtag in a tweet, you will be transported to a live feed of every tweet that has ever included that exact hashtag.
What’s the point?
Aside from easily connecting similar content with one another, hashtags serve many other purposes and have other benefits.
First, using hashtags in your tweets allows you to place your tweet in front of millions of other Twitter users. If someone clicks on a hashtag that you used in a tweet or searches for those specific keywords, your tweet will now appear in the generated list of tweets that used that hashtag.
Many companies use hashtags as a way to market themselves. For example, if a company sells picture frames, they can tweet about a promotion or new inventory and use the hashtag #pictureframes. Now, if someone searches picture frames, their tweet will appear, and it allows them to reach a wider audience than simply those who follow them on Twitter. Their hope is that using hashtags will put their tweet in front of a potential customer who will then visit their website and make a sale.
When a hashtag gains popularity, it can also start a Twitter chat. These chats revolve around a specific topic and are available every day at any time of day. When participating in a Twitter chat, users don’t have to re-start the conversation, as it is always occurring. This allows people to connect with other Twitter users on topics they enjoy.
Become a trend.
Hashtags also have the ability to become a Twitter trend. If a specific hashtag is used by multiple Twitter users around the same time, it becomes a trend. For example, after the Charlie Sheen debacle, the hashtag #winning became a trend.
When a hashtag becomes a trend, it then appears in the Twitter home page. Now instead of being seen only by those who search for those keywords or click on a hashtag, those tweets will be seen by everyone who visits the Twitter home page.
Using hashtags isn’t just a silly phrase that Twitter users employ for no reason; it actually has many benefits and allows Twitter users to reach a wide audience and connect with others who are interested in the same topics.
Charlie Adams is a tech expert and social media guru who works with entrepreneur networks providing consultative services in the area of web 2 and social media