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If you haven’t seen one of these # today yet, you have now.  You may have noticed in recent years that these symbols are on the increase, and you may have seen them most in Twitter (and maybe in LinkedIn).

What are they and how will the use of them improve your day?  I have written a short blog to give a you brief intro to hashtags, and if you are curious, you can find out lots more online.

What are they?

They were developed as a way of creating “groupings” of topics in Twitter, eg. #iodyorkshire.  If you search for this, all tweets with #iodyorkshire in will be returned in your search result.

The hashtag is a great tool for conferences, and it is also a way for you to market yourself in Twitter: if everyone agrees to use a certain hashtag to tweet about a topic, it becomes really easy find that topic in search and keep in the loop, and more likely the topic will appear in Twitter’s Trending Topics.

Hashtags became most common during the San Diego forest fires in 2007 when a man called Nate Ritter used the hashtag “#sandiegofire” to identify his tweets related to this incident so people could keep track of it.

I went to a social recruitment conference in February and everyone who went ended their tweets with #trulondon – thus I could find them and connect with them before I went and see what the buzz was about before, during and after attending.  I have even saved this search result as a stream on Hootsuite (my Twitter App) so that I don’t actually have to search for it.

How can you use them?

You can of course use ones already in existence. Just do a search in Twitter, your Twitter app (eg. Hootsuite), Google or use sites like Hashtag.org, to see if your search term is already in use and off you go.  Bare in mind that people search for things on Twitter, thus if they are looking to buy and you are found in their search result due to how you have structured your tweet, chocs away!

It’s Trendy!

Even better, create your own and start a trend.  This is where #FF or #FollowFriday started.  If you use Twitter, you will see these on a Friday – they stand for “Follow Friday” and allow you to suggest who to follow, eg:

If you trust the person who has used the hashtag, you are likely to click onto the people they suggest you follow and perhaps start following them, which is one of the things that social media is about – following recommendations of your friends and peers.

So, there’s a very brief, basic intro to hashtags.  If you were not seeing them before, you’ll be seeing them everywhere now!  Check them out online and start thinking about how you could use them in your tweets and LinkedIn updates to get involved in your sector online and attract new contacts.

Hashtag Abuse

BUT… and there is always a BUT… don’t abuse these or overuse them.  If you were at a networking meeting, and you met a “pushy” salesperson using lots of jargon and sector-specific words to bombard you, you would switch off.  Tweets containing lots of hashtags can look too salesy and switch off your audience.  Use them for research and attraction and you will get a lot out of Twitter.

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