A hashtag tags a tweet with a keyword that categorizes it and makes it more findable. It’s Twitter metadata. You can click on the hashtag in a tweet to bring up other tweets on the topic or you can search for hashtags in the search box. In Twitter itself, you cannot follow hashtags the way you follow people, but there are apps that let you set up feeds for as many hashtags as you like (as you’ll see on Day 8, Apps for managing the conversation).
Anyone can create a hashtag. A hashtag needs to be a single word, preceded by the # (hash) symbol, with no spaces or other characters. It doesn’t need to be a real word – it can be an acronym of some sort, like #UofT10DoT — but it needs to be understood, known or guessed by the people it’s relevant to. It could even be several words run into one (which counts as one word) such as #RuinADateWithAnAcademicInFiveWords (this sums it up) or #overlyhonestmethods.
Generally, though, above anything else it should be short, so that it doesn’t use up too many characters. Tip: if you’re using more than one word, adding in capital letters can make the hashtag more readable, e.g. #ShePersisted. It doesn’t make a difference to searching the hashtag – as football fans annoyed by bird pictures found out.
Finding an already established hashtag can sometimes be tricky, since abbreviations are often used. You may need to search several variations before you hit on the right one. You can also check out people in your field to see what they use. And check out these 11 essential hashtags for academics.
Hashtags are crucial to live-tweeting, that is, tweeting in an ongoing way about a live event, from a news happening to a hockey game to a conference session. The hashtag brings all the relevant tweets together in a rolling feed. We’ll talk more about live-tweeting when we talk about Twitter and conferences. And hashtags can be great way to build community.
Hashtags can also be used as commentary (or meta-hashtag) on the main message of the tweet:
Hashtags can make powerful statements:
Here’s a hashtag that offers a challenge:
#ShareMyThesis – in 140 characters – this was actually a competition (now closed). Anyone want to give it a go? How about summarize your latest article in a tweet?
Trending this week: #ThingsOnlyWomenWritersHear – not precisely academic, but no doubt applicable!
Today’s assignment: find some hashtags that are useful to you and tweet about it! Or contribute to a discussion in your field using a hashtag that’s relevant to your research. If you’re having trouble finding the right hashtags, tweet about that too.
And since it’s Friday, you may want to check out #FollowFriday, though you’ll probably find the academic equivalent, #ScholarSunday, to be more useful. Friday also has #FridayReads and others.
Tweeting using a topic hashtag is a great way to get noticed. Are people (outside the class) replying to you or following you?
Reminder: no “class” over the weekend. We’re back on Monday. Happy tweeting!
Hash – Susan Orlean in the New Yorker
History of #hashtags (infographic)
The weird and wonderful world of academic Twitter (mostly about hashtags)