Hashtags, you know, those crazy off-kilter squares with six protrusions pointing in every direction? Whether you first knew it as a number sign, the pound symbol, or a tic-tac-toe board, its incarnation as the hashtag has changed the language for millions around the world. It has also shaped elections, launched social movements, and transcended its meaning as a mere keystroke to become a defining symbol of the digital age. Sure. A hashtag is a type of label or like a tagging system for content and it uses a pound symbol in front of a series of words that are all grouped together without spaces. It helps others who are interested in a specific topic, quickly find content from many people at once.
Hashtags are used mostly on social media sites to draw attention, organize, and to promote topics. They rocketed to fame initially on Twitter, but now you can use hashtags on other social platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. And so, anyone sharing content on a specific topic can add a hashtag label to their message so that others searching for that topic can find content from many people who use the same hashtag. Much like attaching keywords to your social media posts.
You don’t need any special software or coding experience to create a hashtag. The only thing you need to do is put the pound sign directly in front of the word or phrase you want to turn into a hashtag and ensure:
- No spaces
- No punctuation
- No special characters
Also too, don’t forget that even if your hashtag contains multiple words, group them all together. If you want to differentiate between words, because they are all grouped together without spaces, use capitals for the beginning of each word. Uppercase letters will not alter your search results, so searching for so of the more popular and top trending hashtags like #fakenews, #instagood, or #BlackLivesMatter will yield the same results in uppercase or lowercase.
Numbers are supported, so tweet about #50ShadesOfGrey to your heart’s content. However, like I mentioned earlier, punctuation marks are not, so commas, periods, exclamation points, question marks and apostrophes are out. Forget about asterisks, ampersands or any other special characters as they won’t work either.
Hashtags can help you get found globally by a specific audience. For instance, many people can do a general search in Google based on a hashtag allowing them to connect popular and trending topics.
For instance, during the Fort McMurray wildfires back in 2016 the Twitter hashtag #fortmcmurray was used over a million times and played a prominent role in the dissemination of information and served as a key platform for coordinating humanitarian efforts.
Also, the #MeToo is one of the most globally recognized vial hashtags used recently used to raise awareness about sexual assault and harassment.
First and foremost is that you don’t own them. There are no rules or guidelines. When you add the hash symbol before a word, it becomes a hashtag and anyone else can grab it and exploit it. It becomes troublesome, especially in business, if it’s hijacked and used nefariously.
For example, McDonalds, which is associated with fast-food that can be considered unhealthy (despite their efforts to improve that image) started #McDStories that went viral but in a bad way. Instead of starting a trend of stories that reflected how healthy their food can be, it quickly changed into a hashtag that had “stories” from people claiming food poisoning, bad employees and various other complaints.
For most people, the hashtag is used for fun. Many trending hashtags, like #ProudtoBeaFanOf are simply used to share an opinion. Others help organize news stories around major events. And sometimes they’re just made up on the fly to make a Tweet sound funnier. The interpretation and usage is always up to you, like most Twitter lingo, but the most basic function of a hashtag is to create a single, organized feed of Tweets around each topic or idea.