Don’t worry, these are not stupid questions. Hashtags are in fact a rather new social media function, but as the ever growing influence of social media permeates every aspect of our daily lives and conversations, hashtags are now common terminology.

So you should probably figure what they are and what they’re used for, especially if you plan to use twitter or Google+.

These two social media networks are the most common places you’ll see hashtags, but they are becoming a common feature of many social media networks across the internet (there are rumors that facebook will soon implement hashtags as well). Not sure what twitter and Google+ are? Maybe you should start there first, then come back.

Hashtags are a simple way to categorize or organize social media data. As you’ve likely noticed, there is an unfathomable amount of meaningless and pointless data being shared every day on social media sites, perhaps you’ve even been a culprit of sharing about your love for pickles or notifying the world that you’re now leaving for work. While I do look down on you for doing so, the good news is that hashtags allow social media users an easy way to sort through the clutter to find what they’re really looking for and connect with like-minded people.

Take this tweet for example: “Anyone know of something fun to do tonight in #Harrisburg?”

By using the pound sign before the word ‘Harrisburg’ I’ve added my tweet into an ongoing string of tweets that use the same hashtag:

You can see that this feature is regularly abused by people who are trying to promote their own agenda. That being said, hashtags provide an easy way to follow conversations about a similar topic, displaying all users who have been recently talking about that topic. Using a social media dashboard tool like Hootsuite, you can easily set up streams that automatically update as users post updates using a particular hashtag that you want to follow. If you’re a Chattooga River Rafting enthusiast who lovesĀ white water rafting in Georgia for example, searching the hashtag #chattooga, #chattoogarafting or #georgiarafting might be of extra interest to you.

Using and tracking hashtags can be a benefit to both businesses and consumers. Hashtags can really help with promoting or finding content for the following:

  • Events
  • Employment
  • Real estate
  • Online chats
  • Research
  • Contests
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but you get the idea! Hashtags are ideal for sorting data or helping others find what you’re posting about. Save a few hashtag searches of interest to you for easy data consuming the next time you’re online.
Hashtags are not all business of course, you’ll likely see many tweets and posts with random hashtags that people are using just for fun. There’s no harm in it, but don’t abuse the hashtags, typically one or two per post are more than enough. A tweet that reads, “#coolest, #best, #swankiest #bar & #lounge #club in #philly here” is overkill at best, and more likely just spam.
How do you use hashtags? Have you seen any creative uses of hashtags as of late?