With the advent of Twitter, the symbol “#” was combined with a “keyword phrase – without any space” and Hashtags were born; prior to that the “#” symbol was rarely used by the common user of a computer.
Hashtags are Twitter’s methodology to combine tweets under a category. For example, if I’m tweeting about technology for small and medium-sized businesses, then I can categorize my tweet for the categories of “technology” and “SMBs” accordingly by using the hashtag.
Here’s an example of one of my tweets:
“PayPal introduces a new #technology to help #SMBs”
This tweet will be categorized accordingly under the topics involving “technology” and “SMBs”.
According to hashtags.org, a hashtag is defined as:
“The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keyword or topic in a Tweet. Any user can categorize or follow topics with the Hashtags service.”
How to Use Hashtags Properly
Hashtags should be used carefully because they have their pros and cons. If you’re planning on hijacking the hashtags to get more followers, then think again! The effect will be adverse and you might lose the people currently following you. People follow hashtags, and if you use hashtags in abundance, then chances are you’ll be ripping off your followers.
Here is an example of a tweet which is hijacking hashtags:
“I am #loving #this #new #gadget because I #love #buying #tech #stuff”
According to Hubspot:
“Designer Kenneth Cole, for example, tried to insert his brand into conversations about the Egypt uproar. Through this tweet, Kenneth Cole tried to hijack the #Cairo hashtag in attempt to promote his spring collection. His message was received with strong public disapproval and media criticism. As David Meerman Scott says, “Don’t attempt to piggyback on news when it conveys extremely negative information, such as people’s deaths.”
Be careful what you tweet for! Hijacking can mean either piggybacking on a popular hashtag just to get traffic, or to stuff your tweets with too many hashtags just to get traffic. Hashtags are supposed to categorize your tweet, not be one more tool just to get more eyeballs on your tweet or the link you tweeted.
But, if you use hashtags properly, then you probably will get more followers as your tweets will get more visibility because more people who are tracking those hashtags will see your tweets. You need to traffic by tweeting something valuable, and then categorizing it appropriately so those who might find the twee valuable can actually find it.
Here’s an example of a tweet making good use of hashtags:
“Loving the #holidays and enjoying #christmas with my family.”
How to Get the Most Out of Hashtags
To make the most out of hashtags, it’s a good idea to keep track of trending hashtags. Here are two of my favorite hashtag websites to help you find the most popular hashtags related to your category, so you make the most out of your tweets.
These sites will help you find the most popular tags, what they mean, which tags are topping the charts, and even introduce you to new tags. They are also a good resource to find out if a hashtag you want to use actually exists, or is already being used to mean something else.