You have definitely seen a hashtag. They are all over the television nowadays. Every popular TV show, news show, even commercials are displaying hashtags in hopes that you’ll use them to tweet or Facebook about their product or show. The problem is that if you’re not familiar with Internet jargon, you probably don’t know what a hashtag is. Well, as we are always looking to help, here’s our answer to the age-old question: What is a hashtag?
Simply put, a #hashtag is a link to a search about that particular subject. For example, if you sent out the following tweet on Twitter:
PCTech2000.com is the best #tech help site on the #internet!
The words Tech and Internet would become links to a search for tweets with those words inside them. If you were to click on those links after you sent that tweet, you’d be taken to a Twitter search page, that has all the tweets with that particular word in it. It would also put all the tweets with that particular hashtag in it.
This is why so many TV shows are placing hash tags on their shows. They hope you’ll go onto Twitter, see that hashtag (or better use it), then get involved in conversations with people who are also using that hashtag.
What Are #Hashtags Used For?
In the beginning, way back in 2006, there was no good way to search Twitter, and Twitter was too busy trying to keep their servers from crashing. So users invented a way to link (tag) tweets that were similar so a particular topic could be easily followed. Soon there were programs that allowed you to just follow a feed of your favorite hashtags.
Twitter soon caught on (they’re slow, not stupid), and made Hashtags an official feature. They have now made it so hashtags are a key part of their business, allowing businesses to sponsor hashtags (or trending topics as they call them), for money. User still use them to follow their favorite topics as they happen on Twitter.
TV and movies are the only thing they are used for. Things like the Boston bombings earlier in 2013 were a hashtag people followed to keep track of the news. More recently, a hashtag #supporttexaswomen went viral on Twitter and Facebook to support a filibuster over abortion.
Facebook recently introduced the use of Hashtags on their social network as well, though the audience there is arguably much different, and not used to using hashtags as much. Instagram has always use Hashtags as a way to link pictures to a specific topic. For example if you took a picture of your dog, and used the hashtag #dogs in the description, the link would point to all pictures that had that particular tag.
Google+ also has always had Hashtags. Recently however, they have started automatically selecting tags for each post (most of them any way). This allows users to click on that hashtag and see related posts in an interesting interface.
When Should You Use Hashtags?
Hashtags should be used sparingly in my opinion, and only when you are talking about something that matters to a bunch of people. TV shows and news events are great examples. What you had for breakfast, on the other hand, isn’t so important that it should appear in my timeline with a bunch of hashtags:
I just had a #Cornbeef #Sandwich!!! #OMG #Lunch #Yummy #HASHTAGOVERLOAD
That’s just obnoxious.