Hal Lublin on February 3rd, 2010

Have I mentioned on this blog how much I love hashtags? For those of you who are unfamiliar, “hashtags” are a way of creating order from the chaos that is Twitter. If you follow a large number of people, your stream becomes incredibly difficult to follow. Sometimes, even when you use lists and tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite you still wind up missing things you wanted to catch. Hashtags can provide a solution to that problem. Hashtags are created by putting a “#” infront of a word, phrase or abbreviation. Here are a few examples of hashtags in action:

  • If you can’t make it to a conference (like BlogWorld last fall), you could have still learned a lot from the various sessions just by following the #bwe09 hashtag. You can search for hashtags on Twitter Search, using desktop apps like TweetDeck and Hootsuite (simply by creating a new column dedicated to that search) or by using services like tweetgrid, which update in real time.
  • If you were watching the World Series and wanted to see what other fans were saying, you could have follow the #worldseries, #phillies or #yankees hashtags.
  • Micah Baldwin created a phenomenon known as Follow Friday, where people suggest other twitter users you might want to follow. Every Friday, look for the #ff or #followfriday tag.
  • Sometimes they’re just for fun. One popular hastag is #justsayin, as in “I can’t stand the Wallflowers. Jakob Dylan is nowhere near the talent his father is. #justsayin”

Here are a few tips that will help you use hashtags to your advantage:

  • When you have an event, establish a hashtag for people to use – otherwise, they’ll just come up with their own, meaning their will be a bunch of different hashtags that will make the conversation difficult to follow. Creating a way for people to “attend” the event remotely will increase awareness and can increase attendance in following years if people are getting valuable information (remember, they won’t get EVERYTHING from following hashtags, so don’t feel like you’re giving away the farm). Hashtags can also be used for specific session to monitor discussions and take questions (saw this more than once at BlogWorld).
  • If you work with a company, see if someone has created a hashtag to discuss your service/product/industry. If it doesn’t exist, create and support one to facilitate conversation.
  • Even if you aren’t using them yourself, MONITOR them! Hashtags allow you to pay closer attention to discussions about topics that are relevant to your work.
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