Twitter: the #hashtag explained

by Lee Hopkins on September 14, 2010 · 4 comments

in Uncategorized

what's a hashtag - from Justin Williams

One of the questions I can count on being asked when I give training in Twitter is, “What’s a ‘hashtag’?”

Somehow I have introduced the term in my talk, or else delegates have seen the hash symbol in the examples I use, and naturally they are curious.

The hashtag is actually quite a simple concept and definitely one worth getting your head around.

The term ‘hashtag’ comes from our computer-coding colleagues: the symbol is a hash mark, and the term is a tag, thus ‘hashtag’.

Hashtags themselves serve many purposes:

  • creating/following a meme
    e.g. the sarcastic, self-deprecating ‘#firstworldproblems’ when twittering about the bloke snoring loudly in the business class seat next to you; ‘#followfriday’ (also known as ‘#ff’) when suggesting to those who follow you that ‘here are some people you might be interested in following’;
  • following an event
    e.g. ‘#marketingweek’ –tagged tweets were about a conference on marketing run recently in Adelaide (it also is the hashtag for a similar conference run in the UK shortly after); ‘#usopen’ to signify tweets about the US Open tennis championship currently running; ‘#AdlFringe’ about the Adelaide Fringe;
  • continuing a joke
    e.g. ; #bornthisway, #bieberfever, #songsiwillnevergettiredof;
  • organising around a group
    e.g. ‘#smcadl’ – the Social Media Club, Adelaide; ‘#socadl’ – social mediarists in Adelaide

You can search Twitter itself to see messages categorized with a hashtag (go to and type in #firstworldproblems as an example).

But if you are, say, a real estate agent and taking baby steps with Twitter, should you type in a suburb with a hashtag at the front of it? I’d say no, because someone searching for a location, person or subject will just search Twitter for that search term.

So if, for example, you have tweeted the suburb ‘Richmond’, whether you type ‘#Richmond’ or just ‘Richmond’ (or ‘richmond’) is immaterial; Twitter’s search engine will still recall ‘Richmond’ in the search results. So why waste a character when you’ve only got 140 of them?

There we are… Twitter hashtags. What’s your favourite hashtag and why?

Image from Justin Williams

  • Buyers Advocates

    Hi Lee, I just started by business’ own twitter account and bumped into your article while learning more about hashtags. This has been helpful. Thanks! _Brandy

  • Pingback: #HaveYouRegisteredYourHashtag? « Prakkypedia()

  • @steveplunkett

    the #hashtag origin is from IRC. Internet Relay Chat which is essentially what twitter is.. the # denoted the name of a channel.. like #artchat #SMchat, etc..

  • Lee Hopkins

    Thanks for that, Steve; I didn’t know the origins

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