Ever wonder what the “#” symbol used on Twitter is for? That little # is known as a “hashtag.” Hashtags are used to identify keywords or terms so that they can be easily found again in a search. If you put the hashtag in front of a term in your tweet, Twitter will activate that term as a link, so that it will take you to a real-time feed of everyone tweeting about that same keyword.
For example, if I tweeted the following:
The hashtag I created for #SocialMedia becomes a link in Twitter. If I click on this link, it will take me to everyone else tweeting about social media who is also tagging it with the # symbol in front of the term.
Phill Edwards, V.P. of Business Development at Pandemic Labs, says, “Hashtags are quite useful for brands that are looking to track converstaions related to their brands with keywords that are associated with their brand. A great example of this is @DunkinDonuts. Dunkin’ Donuts is now able to follow their customers through hashtags such as #coffee #DunkinRun #BagelBen and #DunkinDave.
“Another great use of hashtags that has been quite popular lately is to use them for contests. A website design firm called “MoonFruit” is giving away a new laptop every day for 10 days. All you have to do is use the hashtag #Moonfruit cleverly in your tweets and you are entered to win once a day.
“Comcast is a great example of a company that has used hashtags to track customers that might be having problems with their product. With a simple click, Comcast can access many customers that are talking about their services and offer immediate support.
“Some may think that hashtags are just a redundant form of search, but I frequently find myself clicking on them just to learn something new or to satisfy my curiosity. They can be a great way to discover and learn about new things.”
Coincidentally, Phill’s example of using a hashtag with Comcast is one I recently made good use of. By tweeting a simple complaint to #Comcast, I was able to secure an earlier appointment time with one of their technicians and resolve my issue that much faster.
“They’re helpful for searching on Twitter,” says Nicole Miscioscia, Account Coordinator at March Communications. “They’re good for finding other people’s opinions on the same topic that you’re interested in and I can usually glean some new information for a byline or pitch I may be writing. There are definitely some bogus ones, but even just skimming through the real-time feed can be useful.”
hashtags.org provides a listing of popular keywords being tagged, as well as people and trends. They describe the feature as “a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets.” Certainly something that more people should be aware of as the Twitter phenomenon continues to grow exponentially.