Hashtags make it possible to group such messages, since one can search for the hashtag and get the set of messages that contain it. A hashtag is only connected to a specific medium and can therefore not be linked and connected to pictures or messages from different platforms.
Because of its widespread use, the word was added to the Oxford English dictionary in June 2014.
Okay, so now that I have given you the Wikipedia definition, let me discuss with you why it is imperative for you to include hashtags in your postings, as well as take advantage of hashtag postings across the Internet.
As any social media user will tell you, it is all about "the conversation". Before hashtags, we were all posting into the ether and hoping that by some miracle someone would see what we had to say and respond by posting something in return. If social media was ever going to come into its own, a solution to this problem had to be found. Thanks must go to a lightbulb moment tweet by developer Chris Messina, suggesting that Twitter begin grouping topics using the hash symbol. Twitter initially rejected the idea, but in October 2007, citizen journalists began using the hashtag #SanDiegoFire, at Messina’s suggestion, to tweet updates on a series of forest fires in San Diego. The practice of hashtagging took off, and now users and brands employ hashtags to cover everything from serious political events (#Cairo) to entertainment topics (#MileyCyrus).
- As far as the nuts and bolts part goes, hashtag entries can be done with any alphanumeric characters, provided there are no spaces, punctuation or special characters i.e. asterisks, etc. Bearing all this in mind, there are a few do's and don'ts that one needs to remember.
- The @ sign in Twitter performs a very different function from a hashtag. Tweeting @ManUtd and #ManUtd will, in the first instance, send a public message (not to be confused with a DM) to ManUtd and, in the second instance, include your message in a forum of persons using the same hashtag.
- Across all relevant social media platforms it may be tempting to insert copious amounts of hashtags in the hope of reaching the maximum possible viewers, when posting. My advice on this: DON'T. Inserting more than two or, at the most, three hashtags into a post makes it begin to resemble spam and makes you, the person posting, look desperate and clearly a novice. Rather post two or three related posts with one or two targeted hashtags in each. This will gain you far more responses.
- Set up one account per platform and be sure to make sure that it is recognizable as belonging to your brand and your brand alone. I cannot begin to tell you how infuriating it is to search for a company's brand on Twitter or Facebook, only to be confronted by a dozen different options and having no idea of which one to pick.
- Earlier in this post I mentioned the term "social listening". When it comes to your brand, you need to seek out your competitors and see which communal hashtags are being opted for by them. This is a good way to position yourself in the global conversation. One thing that I need to point out however; it is extremely bad etiquette to hijack another brand's unique hashtags. Nike, for example, may use their #JustDoIt tagline in their posts. Don't use this tagline in yours. At best, doing so will dilute your brand image by having it get lost in the "noise". At worst, you will do massive damage to it by giving the impression that you're poaching followers.
- When wanting so set your brand apart, either for a promotion or for a unique aspect of your business, come up with your own unique hashtags and be sure to inform your fans and followers about them. By doing so, you can encourage them to do some social listening of their own and join with others in conversations about your brand. This is a hugely powerful way of generating "buzz". I'm sure you recall the #ALSIceBucketChallenge? Need I say more.