Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Hashtag

As far as I know, the hashtag was born on Twitter several years ago. As hashtagging became more popular, other social networking sites -- such as Facebook and Instagram -- implemented them into their websites, too. {You can read more about the history of the hashtag by clicking here.} Now, they are almost universal in the world of social networking.


The hashtag is represented by the pound symbol (#). Users on social networking sites insert the hashtag into a post before a popular word or topic. Once posted, anyone who searches for that particular topic will see that post {unless the poster has a private account}.

The idea behind the hashtag is that you can find posts by like-minded people and connect with them. It becomes a sort-of search term, if you will. Once you create a hashtag {remember, by putting the pound sign in front of a word or phrase}, it becomes a link. Click on the link to see a list of all the other updates that have that hashtag in them.

For instance, one hashtag I like a lot on Twitter is #edtech. If I post something about educational technology on my Twitter feed, I might include the hashtag "#edtech." Right now, that leads me to a page that looks like this {although this page is always changing!}:

Notice the gray search bar at the top of the page? I typed in "#edtech" and pressed "enter." All of a sudden, I got to see a whole feed of Twitter posts that have that same hashtag in them. This is how I've found some amazing people to follow on Twitter! 

There is no real rhyme or reason for hashtags; you can make anything into a hashtag because they are completely user-generated. Sometimes people use hashtags in front of key words in their post, they use a certain tag that is used by a large group of people, or they'll even make a tongue-in-check phrase into a hashtag.

So where do you start?

Since this is an educational blog, let's focus only on educational hashtags. Below are websites that feature lists of popular educational hashtags:

What else?

Because hashtags are user-generated, some users have taken them to the extreme. While there are no official rules of hashtagging, you definitely want to follow a couple guidelines to avoid looking silly:
  1. If the hashtag does not relate to the post, don't use it. 
  2. Don't hashtag every {or every other!} word.
  3. Feel free to use more than one hashtag for a post, but keep rule #1 in mind. That said, there is no reason to add an entire paragraph full of hashtags. {This mostly happens on Instagram.}
This article, titled, "#HashtagEtiquette: 8 People Who Are Doing It Wrong" featured on Mashable explains a few unwritten rules about using hashtags. Abide by these 8 guidelines and you'll already be ahead of some people! ;)

Stumped as to how you can use hashtags?
Finally, I'll leave you with a bit of humor about hashtags. The following video was featured on The Tonight Show a year or two ago. This video features Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake making fun of people who use the word "hashtag" in real life -- another "don't"! ;)

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