Tuesday, 9 April 2013

"H" is for Hashtag and some of what I've learned thus far...

Hashtags. You know, those funny things with a hash mark (or 'pound sign') in front of them. Appear on Twitter tweets and other places. Like here, with the #AtoZChallenge. See? That's a "hashtag". 

I'm not the only one who's onto hashtags today...the theme over at #AtoZChallenge Headquarters today is "Hashtag the heck out of us!" Lots of good information there. But here, a very basic primer on hashtags AND some information on Tagboard, a site I discovered just yesterday (see below).

But what are they for, and what do you do with them? (Spoiler alert: I'm not the expert, just learning a little bit here and there and have found value in marketing--and other pursuits--with the help of social media). One definition of Hashtags comes from http://www.hashtags.org/ and says that hashtags allow us to "listen, measure and engage in Twitter conversations and gain valuable social media insights".

And who does this? Hashtags can and are used for any industry, keyword, event, business, product, service or blog where the need to track traffic or measure results is required. Well, that just about covers most of the known world, doesn't it? I've used it to track incentive programmes, measure return on investment, see who's visiting the client's website, do fund-raising, make sure my complaint about a product gets seen. Never tried it? Just add # and the company name to your complaint tweet (make sure it's the Twitter account they use) and watch the customer service folks respond.

Ever wonder what "trending" is all about? Read this article and you're on your way.  See an example in the graph below.

Why does all this matter? Read this article for information on hashtag tracking and you'll have a great beginning....and then...

Take a look at #LadyGaga, for instance (an example most of us recognise). There is more data there than you'd ever want to know about Ms Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Not interested in her? Consider what you can learn if you track a specific issue or company--say #IBM, the #environment or #gaymarriage or #WallStreet or a person, like #BarackObama or #JoeDiffie or #JKRowling. Go one, have a look check it out!

Participants in the #AtoZChallenge use the official Challenge hashtag so that their tweets, for instance, are picked up in various feeds and services so prospective readers will see them OR, importantly, anyone else who is tracking or searches on #AtoZChallenge, in this example, will find all the Tweets which contain that hashtag. The organisation also uses it to track who completes their 26 A to Z days.

I set up a search in Tweetdeck (a free Twitter application I use) to receive a feed of all the #AtoZChallenge hashtags. Then I can choose the participant blogs I want to read each day based on what they've said about that day's blog in their Tweet.

I knew about http://www.hashtags.org/ and I'd gone there before to see if there was a specific hashtag, for instance, for something I was interested in. But I hadn't understood that, while anyone in the world can use the hashtag, for say, the #CrimeanWar (of interest to me) no one had actually registered that hashtag so hashtags.org wasn't measuring it.

Is hashtags.org the only one? Not by a long shot! It's only one site/service related to Twitter and tweeting. It may not provide anything to you and what you want to do.

More appropriate for some people could be www.Tagboard.com, which allows users to "see the whole conversation, across networks, making it the perfect hub for social media." It still uses hashtags, though, so it's all a part of the same broader social media whole. It's a lot like Pinterest but built on hashtags.

When I used the hashtag #CrimeanWar (researching for my novel) and found all sorts of people posting information and photos. I registered a hashtag of my own, #ReedWrites, there, and when I use it in Tweets, people on tagboard will see my tweets (see left). This can serve to put me in touch with others with the same interest OR have them visit my site or blog for more information about my project.

Kinda fun, I thought, and potentially very useful for my research and eventual marketing efforts. Give it a try!

Comments, corrections and additional resources welcome! As noted above, I am not the expert but only a learner. Thank you for visiting.


  1. This is great information. When I first started out on Twitter I couldn't make heads or tails of what some of the things people were putting in their Tweets. I get the hashtags now and can explain them to others, like my brother who just had no idea. lol

    Dark Thoughts Blog

  2. Mary, thanks so much for your comment! It is so confusing at first, I definitely agree. I was fortunate to work on contract with a large company (in marketing) and they sat me next to a Social Media whizkid and I got a really solid grounding and experience in using social media in all sorts of campaigns, etc. A lucky break! Now I'm trying to learn more. Thanks again, cynthia

  3. Great post! Social media really is revolutionising the way we speak, interact with each other and market ourselves. Who'd have thought a little hashtag would end up being so widely used and effective!!

    A to Z Participant (A to Z of Travel Bucket List Inspiration)

  4. Even though I use Twittee I still learned a lot from this post. Great links too. Thanks

    Pauleen @ http://troppont.wordpress.com

  5. Thanks so much for this! I'm a total techie, but have been slow to adopt Twitter. This helps.

    Bradley Charbonneau's Pass the Sour Cream A-Z Challenge.