How-To

Twitter 101: Hashtags

Maybe the most infamous innovations the internet gave us, the hashtag changed the way people communicated and connected on social media. Comedy skits aside, hashtags — or the word (or words) following the # sign — are an extremely useful tool once you understand how to make them work for you, your business, or a campaign. 

But, hashtags are so much more than a few words and a pound sign. What started fourteen years ago as an early Twitter adopter’s idea to connect groups of people and important topics on the growing platform has certainly evolved into an integral part of the social media landscape. They drive conversation, link people and Tweets together, make searching a topic easier, and define brand moments.

If you want hashtags to do any of the above on Twitter, knowing the basics will help you successfully include them in your social media strategy. 

What do you use a hashtag for?

Hashtags, like many social media tools, are used for a variety of purposes. When you include a hashtag in your Tweet, you’re connecting that Tweet to others viewing or using that same hashtag. You’ll also see hashtags in the What’s happening section on Twitter as they gain popularity, which means a higher potential of visibility and engagement.

Some common uses for hashtags include:

  • Linking conversation to a campaign, a brand, or a movement.
  • Congregating content around an event, like a conference or an ongoing series.
  • Live Tweeting a TV show, live event, or staying up to date on an unfolding story.
  • Providing resources on a topic or industry.
  • Organizing your own content for your reference.

How to pick a hashtag

From marketing campaigns to events and everything in between, picking the perfect hashtag can make or break an online experience. To create one that fits your needs, ask yourself what the goals are for using a hashtag. Do you want to connect content for your own use in the future (think all the Tweets about a specific event)? Or do you want to spark an ongoing conversation (think movements like #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter)? 

Once you define your goals, come up with a few phrases that you think will relate and resonate with your intended audience. You’ll want to search your options using the "Search Twitter" bar on your Home screen. This will show you if other people or conversations are already using that hashtag and what content is attached. Checking for how a hashtag has been used can prevent you or your campaign from being tied to content that might work against your intention. 

Depending on your goals, you might want to participate in an already existing conversation, or you might want to move on to your next option and come up with a hashtag that isn’t already in use. If you discover a hashtag you’d like to use has been previously tied to other Tweets a handful of times or in the past, you could decide to use it anyway because the conversation could quickly lean toward your content if you strategize your approach. 

Best practices to keep in mind

There are some standards to abide by to ensure your hashtag is accessible. 

  1. Keep it short: Hashtags that are between one and three words are easiest to remember.
  2. Consider accessibility: Capitalize the individual words for readability, so the Tweet can be translated for people using audio-only features.
  3. Don’t overuse them: Typically using more than one or two hashtags will overwhelm a Tweet, and its intention might get lost on someone’s busy timeline. 
  4. Use them in your Tweet: If it makes sense, embed your hashtag within your sentence rather than just sticking it at the end of the Tweet. 

Just a reminder: Hashtags do not allow punctuation of any kind, so characters like apostrophes, colons, and quotation marks will end the hashtag functionality. 

 

What do you use a hashtag for?

Hashtags, like many social media tools, are used for a variety of purposes. When you include a hashtag in your Tweet, you’re connecting that Tweet to others viewing or using that same hashtag. You’ll also see hashtags in the What’s happening section on Twitter as they gain popularity, which means a higher potential of visibility and engagement.

Some common uses for hashtags include:

  • Linking conversation to a campaign, a brand, or a movement.
  • Congregating content around an event, like a conference or an ongoing series.
  • Live Tweeting a TV show, live event, or staying up to date on an unfolding story.
  • Providing resources on a topic or industry.
  • Organizing your own content for your reference.
 

How to pick a hashtag

From marketing campaigns to events and everything in between, picking the perfect hashtag can make or break an online experience. To create one that fits your needs, ask yourself what the goals are for using a hashtag. Do you want to connect content for your own use in the future (think all the Tweets about a specific event)? Or do you want to spark an ongoing conversation (think movements like #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter)? 

Once you define your goals, come up with a few phrases that you think will relate and resonate with your intended audience. You’ll want to search your options using the "Search Twitter" bar on your Home screen. This will show you if other people or conversations are already using that hashtag and what content is attached. Checking for how a hashtag has been used can prevent you or your campaign from being tied to content that might work against your intention. 

Depending on your goals, you might want to participate in an already existing conversation, or you might want to move on to your next option and come up with a hashtag that isn’t already in use. If you discover a hashtag you’d like to use has been previously tied to other Tweets a handful of times or in the past, you could decide to use it anyway because the conversation could quickly lean toward your content if you strategize your approach. 

 

Best practices to keep in mind

There are some standards to abide by to ensure your hashtag is accessible. 

  1. Keep it short: Hashtags that are between one and three words are easiest to remember.
  2. Consider accessibility: Capitalize the individual words for readability, so the Tweet can be translated for people using audio-only features.
  3. Don’t overuse them: Typically using more than one or two hashtags will overwhelm a Tweet, and its intention might get lost on someone’s busy timeline. 
  4. Use them in your Tweet: If it makes sense, embed your hashtag within your sentence rather than just sticking it at the end of the Tweet. 

Just a reminder: Hashtags do not allow punctuation of any kind, so characters like apostrophes, colons, and quotation marks will end the hashtag functionality. 

 

Using hashtags with your community

One of the best ways to connect with other people interested in a specific topic is to congregate content and conversation around a hashtag. As we’ve seen with major movements that started (or grew) on social media, a hashtag can bring people together who might never have found each other otherwise. #GivingTuesday is an excellent example of how a hashtag can take on a life of its own, starting as a conversation, inspiring people in a moment, and then becoming a global movement that continues to resonate year after year.  

Whether it’s finding resources for your industry or dishing about your latest binge-watch, following a hashtag is one of the many wants to connect with community members on Twitter who share your passions.

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