Hashtag Wins and #Fails

Recently, someone asked about hashtag etiquette. How do you use hashtags, and if you’re using them to do a search on Twitter, how do you know they’re legit? What’s the difference between a search done with a hashtag or without a hashtag? Would you use hashtags differently on Facebook than on Twitter?

What Is a Hashtag?

If you haven’t used a hashtag before, simply add a pound sign (#) before a word. On some platforms, that word now becomes searchable. It’s a great way to organize an idea. For example, #SanFrancisco, like so, is now a searchable term. You can click on it and you’ll see other tweets and posts (depending upon which platform you’re using). If you’re new (or even if you’re not), Mashable has an excellent Beginner’s Guide to Hashtags ~ recommended reading. That said, a hashtag can make a search easier.

Hashtags on Facebook

Let me say that I’m not a huge fan of hashtags on Facebook. Most people seem to overuse them and just annoy everyone. When Facebook allowed users to employ hashtags in June of 2013, they opened up a Pandora’s Box, in my opinion. People go crazy with them and they don’t mean anything. Most of the social media managers I know don’t use them and find them annoying in the forums where I’ve heard discussions. If you overuse hashtags on Facebook, you even run the risk of being hidden. And the last thing you want to do is be unfriended on Facebook.

Hashtags on Twitter

Hashtags on Twitter are a whole other ball of wax. Hashtags originated on Twitter, so they make sense on Twitter. You can use them to organize a search, to make a sarcastic remark, and more. Personally, I use Twitter for the occasional joking remark, and using hashtags in this way sometimes separates the newbies from more advanced tweeters. This use of hashtags is more for entertainment or to set the tone of a tweet.

#kidneychat tonight starts at 8pm EDT. Hope you can make it!

— Amy Donohue (@TheFabulousOne) October 28, 2013

Hashtags are useful in organizing Tweetchats, which are discussions about a certain topic, usually about an hour long, held on Twitter. For instance, #KidneyChats is on Mondays evenings and #POCChat on Monday mornings, are a couple I recommend. Used in this way, a hashtag lets you see what the other participants in a chat are discussing. And by the way, if you click on the embedded tweet, above, you can see some of the top tweets about #KidneyChat.

As a brand, a hashtag can be quite useful to add authority. Many brands have their own hashtags. They may also start a tweetchat using a hashtag to get people talking about a specific topic.

And in case you didn’t know, hashtags weren’t always a part of the Twitter lexicon. The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article on how hashtags came to be.

Other Supported Platforms

Hashtags are used on Pinterest as a way of searching, just as they are on Twitter. On Instagram, certain hashtags are used specifically to describe photos. Google+ lets you search from Google to Facebook or Twitter using a hashtag, too.

How Do You Use Hashtags?

Do you like them? Find them irritating? Think they’re too nerdy? Let me know in the comments! Thanks!

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