In our last Social Media Best Practices post Twitter, Explained, we briefly mentioned the # [hashtag] symbol. In the blog, we also addressed that the # symbol may be the reason that some users have a difficult time reading their timelines — that is, until you fully understand its purpose or get used to the hashtag itself, it can seem a little strange at first.

The hashtag is a prefix that precedes a word, name, or short sentence, and is used for people to search for tweets that have a common topic — and they are not case-sensitive. The common hashtagged word is included in a stream of tweets when users click on it from their timeline.

Now that the hashtag is so common, hashtagged words show up spontaneously in trending topics. These words are used to promote, praise, or look for people, brands, events, and anything else people want to discuss en masse.

Group Activities

Events, such as trade shows, conferences, and conventions, use a common hashtag for Twitter users to include in their tweets. This not only promotes the event, but organizers can keep track of all event tweets, should the user omit mentioning the organization in their tweet.

Side Note: You may even notice that trending topics are breaking news topics.

Online Conversations & Chats

Hashtags are also used to converse with a group of people in what is called a ‘chat’. A Twitter chat is when people with similar interests gather to discuss a certain topic — it is typically hosted by one organization on a specific day and time.

#AgChat is a good example of an online conversation between like-minded individuals.

Discussions

Twitter is also used to build relationships with users in your industry; discussions occur between Tweeters all the time. This type of hashtag may not be a trending topic, but searching for a certain topic in particular will bring up the users participating in such discussions.

Side Note: A hashtag’s search results will bring up users that may be follow-worthy. Take advantage of this feature.

Miscellaneous

I’ve added a miscellaneous point because it’s my particular favourite. This includes all hashtags that are not used for any ‘searchable’ reasons. Even though, technically speaking, all hashtags can be searched. This type of hashtag, in particular, is used to draw attention to the tweet, but it should be used sparingly and with caution.

This hashtag contains two or more words that describes a tweet in an otherwise unusual way. A user must capitalize the first letter of every word in the hashtagged sentence to make it legible.

Hashtagging a tweet increases engagement and must be used in most tweets, if it allows.

Questions? Comment below to start the conversation.