Getting a Handle on Twitter Hashtags – 3 Common Hashtag Uses

Twitter is my favorite social media network. Probably not news to anyone who regularly reads this blog and to any of my social media clients.

But I freely admit that Twitter has a fairly steep learning curve. Getting started on Twitter can be intimidating. It’s almost like trying to read a foreign language.

There are weird abbreviations and jargon-y terms and @ replies and an abundance of hashtags (words or phrases preceded by the # sign).

To make Twitter more accessible, there are rumors that the social media service will do away with some of the more confusing aspects of Twitter-speak. Until that happens, though, here’s a quick overview of three common uses for hashtags a newbie will encounter on Twitter.

1. Specific Event Hashtag

Examples: #Sochi2014 #MH370 #HIMYM

This type of hashtag allows people to track news or participate in an ongoing discussion about specific events, happenings, or occurences.

People from around the globe used #Sochi2014 to talk about the Winter Olympics. Likewise, the world has been glued to #MH370 looking for answers about the missing Malaysian Airlines flight.  Fans of television shows watch “together” and discuss the episode by using designated hashtags like #HIMYM (How I Met Your Mother) or #TWD (The Walking Dead). You’ll also see hashtags for conferences or for Twitter chats. The purpose is to connect people interested in learning more or talking about a specific thing.

So, regardless of how many Twitter followers you have, using a specific event or topic hashtag increases the likelihood of your tweet being seen by other people interested in what you have to say on the matter.

2. General Topic Hashtag

Examples: #Students #chocolate #ATX

Twitter is a global network, but not everything everyone wants to say is meant for a global audience. General topic hashtags allow users to get more of the “right” eyeballs on tweets by tagging geographic regions, populations, or interests.

If you’re traveling to Austin next month, but don’t have any followers from there, you will probably get more responses to a travel question that includes #ATX than one without the hashtag.

If you’ve just written a great blog post on the hottest trends in bridal bouquets, more people will see a tweet about the post tagged with #bride or #wedding than will see a hashtag-less tweet.

To expand the reach of your tweets, try using a combination of hashtags that your target markets are likely to be searching. But don’t overdo it. Too many hashtags can get confusing and annoying. Stick to two or three.

3. “Aside” Hashtags

Examples: #whyisitalwaysme #chocolateisthedevil #sendcoffeeplease

In teaching social media classes and training clients, I’ve found that people are most confused by hashtags that don’t seem to be tied to any specific event or topic of general interest. If you click on these kinds of hashtags, you are unlikely to find several other tweets that reference them.

These hashtags are best described as “asides” or “parentheticals”. They often come at the end of tweet and are usually humorous, ironic, or self-deprecating. There are no rules about using hashtags in this way, and you don’t have to use them in your own tweets.

Using these types of hashtags won’t expand the reach of your tweets, but they will allow you to reveal a bit more of your personality and get creative. Social media is supposed to be social, so have some fun hashtagging your tweets!

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What other uses of hashtags have you encountered? Will you be happy or sad if Twitter does away with hashtags? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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