Twitter defines a hashtag as ‘The # symbol is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet’. It was created organically by Twitter users and is essentially a way to informally categories your tweets using a keyword or phrase.
So when would you use a hashtag?
Hashtags are mainly used to emphasise keywords or topics in a tweet. It allows you to pick out key themes so that your followers can easily tell what the tweet is about.
Say you’re running an seminar or even a webinar, then you could give it its own hashtag which you would use to publicise the event but would then also encourage the audience to use when tweeting out comments live as the event progresses. For example “really excited for #Talk2014, 3 new speakers added! The line-up looks great!” “Fred Bloggs just revealed the secret to winning new clients #talk2014”. This means that anybody interested in the event can search for the term and see all the relevant tweets. Also if people click on the hashtag they will see all other tweets marked with that keyword or phrase.
If you are attending an event, or watching a tv programme then you may wish to tweet about it. In these instances the hashtag will most likely be published and it allows you easily find and connect with like-minded people that have similar interests to you.
#ff is a common hashtag. It means “Follow Friday” and is a way for twitter users to recommend other tweeters to their followers. If you wish to recommend someone you simply add either #FF or #FollowFriday along with the handles of the people you are recommending. When it started #ff was usually followed by a list of tweeters but the later protocol is to only list one or two recommended tweeters with a reason why they are worth following. For example “For this weeks #FF I recommend @Mike_Ames_Flair and @Kirsty_Ames for great sales tips”. It’s a great way of developing a relationship with someone because let’s face it who doesn’t like to be publicly recommended as an interesting person to know.
Tweet chats are a phenomenon that allows people all over the world to tweet and talk to each other around a central topic. Most of the chats are a weekly or monthly even that anyone and everyone can get involved in. They use the hashtag to link all the tweets together in a certain time period. To discover tweet chats that work for you have a look at http://tweetreports.com/twitter-chat-schedule/ , http://twubs.com/twitter-chats , http://blog.tweetchat.com/calendar/ who all have fairly comprehensive lists of tweet chats you might be interested in.
The other use for a hashtag is for emphasis, for example “Don’t you just love an English Summer #RainAgain”. It’s a way of creating more light-hearted tweets but you will know how often to use it depending on your brand.
There are some other aspects of hashtag etiquette that you should be aware of.
1) Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single Tweet, people will find this annoying and if it is done too often will most likely result in you being unfollowed. Best practice recommends using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.)
2) Use hashtags only on Tweets relevant to the topic, if you don’t do this people are more likely to unfollow you.
3) Sometimes you may want to hashtag a phrase, in this case make sure that the phrase isn’t misconstrued by using a capital letter for each new word, for example #FlairWebinar, this will prevent any confusion and make it easier for people to figure out what you are saying.
Hashtags are a powerful tool when used in the right way, but many people are confused and intimidated by them. The best way to get over this fear is to just jump on in and start using it, you’ll find you’ll soon get the hang of them.