Twitter’s Missing Link: use of Hashtags (re: Context)

The first time people see Twitter there’s a negative reaction. I felt it too. There are too many people talking, too few people listening … and way too many haters.

It looks like lots of noise.

To make Twitter useful, we need to better understand and more consistently use the scheme for relating tweet content to topics. It’s done with a special tag for tweets, called a “hashtag”. These are simple key words that you and others define, typically on the fly. Over time, as the most common hashtags gain popularity, people start to watch who is using them, and to see what those people are saying. The hashtag basically serves to index your tweet for anyone else who might want to find it.

How does it work?

It’s easy, really. Just put “#” in front of any word that describes what your tweet is about. Most are placed at the end, especially if they don’t fit in the flow of your tweet, but they can be placed anywhere. You can use as many as you want. Just keep in mind you’re limited to 140 characters for each tweet. The shorter the hashtag, the better. And it needs to be sensible enough that others are likely already using it, or would think to search for it.  For example, try tweeting:

Why doesn’t Twitter have a user manual? #twitter #socialmedia

then search, first on #socialmedia and next, #twitter.

You can use Twitter’s Search, but most eventually opt for a free 3rd party Twitter application like TweetDeck, TweetGrid or Seesmic that will let you define search criteria in columns. This let’s you ‘watch’ specific tweet streams without lots of repetitive typing. As your experience evolves, you can quickly change the hashtags you want to follow.

Another benefit? The rate that people post to hashtag streams is considerably slower than the public timeline. With the pace more reasonable, the conversation is easier to keep up with.

The social media marketing (#smm)  implications are significant as well.  Once you identify hashtags that are relevant to your product, company, or brand, tweeting to your target hashtags increases the chance that potential customers will see it.

But the silver lining may well be global networking.  One day (soon) someone will respond to one of your tweets with helpful insight, and it will be someone you previously didn’t know, quite possibly from across the planet. You see, watching hashtags happens without relation to followers. All of the sudden, the world is your stage.  You could say (or tweet):

Where else (besides #Twitter) can you message the world and get answers? #communication #paradigm

Twitter is what you want to make of it. Just be sure to put a hashtag or two in your most important and insightful tweets.

Sans hashtag, chances are your tweet is going to be lost in the Twitterverse. And that is a very large space indeed.

See you online.

Chris (@SourcePOV)

4 thoughts on “Twitter’s Missing Link: use of Hashtags (re: Context)

  1. Got to this post off Twitter, appropriately enough. Thanks for this post; I realize I’ve been forgetting to make good use of hashtags lately (both in terms of my own tweets and in searching for other people’s tweets).

    Other than #smchat, are there any other good hashtags for business, internet marketing, and social media that you’d recommend?

    • Yes Jeffrey there are many. Important ones that I tend to I watch are:

      #smm – social media marketing
      #e20 – enterprise 2.0
      #web20 – web 2.0
      #gov20 – gov 2.0

      Let me know if you come across others. I’d list a few chats, but I’d leave some some out that you might find interesting. Two great sources for info on chats:

      List of Twitter Chats by Meryl K. Evans (another source for chat details, stats and transcripts)

      Hope that helps; thanks for your comment, and for stopping by.

  2. Hashtags are extremely helpful. If you compare a search on #recipes versus recipes you can quickly see the difference. People using the hashtag have purposely indicated that their post has a recipe to share.

    When doing Twitter searches I’ll often compare the results with and without a hashtag to see where the differences may be. Usually the ones with the hashtags seem to be more pertinent.

    I also wrote a blog post last week that offers more insights on tools to use for Twitter chats and some of the benefits one gains for participating: Twitter chats: if you can’t meet in real space, meet in real time.

  3. Pingback: links for 2010-05-04 « David Wicks: Educational Technology

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