Oct 14, 2013

Hashtags 101

The Evolution of Hashtags

When I say ‘hashtag’ what is the first thing you think of? For me, it’s Twitter. That is the social media platform where they were born in their modern form, but hashtags throughout history have gone by many different names and have had many different functions! Today there are many different rules and best practices that govern hashtags. 

First lets look at the history of hashtags. Sharp notes as they were referred to for millennia, began to appear in the 12th century. Used to identify a sharp note in music, hashtags found a new calling in 1870 when Elime Baudot invented the first telegraph alphabet. He uses 11011 for the British Pound symbol, but in the United States it become a #. That’s why many people still call hashtags, ‘pound signs’. In the 1960’s Bell Engineers add the # to telephone operating systems and call it ‘octothorpe’

What a mouthful right?  “I’m going to octothorpe that on Twitter. Give me one minute!” In the 80’s the pound sign was used in different programming languages and in the early 2000’s it was used in Internet chat rooms to organize topics. On August 23, 2007, Chris Messina publicly used the first hashtag, as we now know it.  #barcamp.  Steve Boyd came right behind him with a blog post reinforcing the concept and the modern hashtag was born! 

Hashtags may have started on Twitter, but they have since spread to most social media networks including Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Google+ and others. 

So why use hashtags, what is their purpose? Hashtags are the focus of your social post. If you could sum up your entire post into one or two words, those words should be hashtagged. Why?  Great question. Think of hashtags as giant open conversations. As people hashtag a post, that post will appear in those conversation streams. For example if I were to hashtag this post with this hashtag #socialmedia, all other posts with that hashtag would be grouped together, in one place. People can visit those streams of information and easily access what they want. It’s important to use hashtags. 

Today 1 out of every 10 tweets contain a hashtag, and it’s projected to grow. So what are some tips on how to use them better? Well here are some tried and true tips to ensure you don’t make a mistake using hashtags:

  • No spaces.You must combine all the words, #dontusespaces
  • No punctuation. #dontusecommas in hashtags.
  • Keep hashtags short. #dontgocrazyitshardforpeopletoread
  • Keep hashtags obvious, don’t use weird or misspelled words
  • #Avoid #Using #Too #Many #Hashtags. It’s annoying.
  • Stay relevant! Don’t hashtag something #pumpkin if you aren’t talking about pumpkins.

Hashtags are a fantastic way to get your message out. Hope this helps, and share this infographic; it’s out of this world.  #infographic (yea I just did that). 

Hashtags 101 Graphic
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