Twitter 101: Why Use Hashtags?

A hashtag is really just a way of categorizing your tweets so that they are part of a narrowed conversation and they’re easier to find in Twitter search. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, or else hashtags wouldn’t have been the most popular trending topic in 2010.

What is a hashtag?

Twitter hashtags are created by putting a “#” in front of a word or phrase, without spaces. The idea behind hashtags is to get people using the same one when talking about a specific topic: using #SOTU to form a discussion around the State of the Union address, for instance. They were created organically by the Twitter community to better categorize tweets.

To get to know hashtags, try exploring the hashtags in Twitter’s trending topics. You will begin to notice that tweets tagged with the same hashtag all (or mostly) discuss the same topic.

Hashtags organize your tweets

The original purpose of the hashtag was to create categories for tweets, and this remains one of the most useful elements of including one in your relevant tweets.

If you include a hashtag in your tweet, people who search for that hashtag will see what you tweeted. This puts your thoughts into context – it lets your followers and those browsing search results know that you want your tweet to be associated with a specific topic.

Hashtags help target your audience

Not only can hashtags help you target a topic, but they can also help you target your audience, as well. If you are a freelance web designer, for instance, you might want to tag those tweets that contain tips for fellow designers with #webdesigntip. This will show your followers that you’re writing for a specific audience, and it will help them sort through the tweets that are relevant to them by searching for that hashtag.

Hashtags will get you more retweets

If you join in a popular conversation on Twitter using a hashtag, you increase the likelihood that you’ll get retweeted. People want to share content on Twitter, and if you’re producing great, insightful commentary that simply isn’t getting shared, it might be because you’re not entering your tweets in the right conversation using hashtags.

By searching out and utilizing relevant hashtags, you’ll put your tweets in front of an audience and topic that they mesh with, and this will naturally lead to more retweets and more engagement. Just be sure you use hashtags that are actually representative of your tweets – you don’t want to be including the hashtag #SOTU if you’re talking about creating a web page layout!

Hashtags can get you more followers

Finally, hashtags can lead you to a higher follower count. This isn’t a direct result of using hashtags, but rather a corollary – by using hashtags, you put your tweets in front of people who are interested in them, which often leads to an increase in followers. The more targeted and accurate your hashtag use, the more targeted followers you’re likely to accumulate.