Octo- What!? – Oh, You Mean Hashtag

Did you know the official name of the hashtag symbol (#) is octothorpe?

It might seem silly for Twitter users to call the hashtag, octothorpe, but I bet it already seems silly to non-Twitter users that we call the number sign (or pound sign) a hashtag.

No matter what you call it, the hashtag has become a functional part of how we communicate with each other on social networks like Twitter and Instagram.

According to Twitter, “the # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.”

What hashtags should you use and more importantly why are you using them?

For businesses, there are two general reasons for using hashtags in your tweets:

  1. To organize tweets related to an event (e.g. #sxsw) or topic by creating a hashtag that does not exist.
  2. To extend the reach of your tweets by leveraging existing hashtags.

1. Creating a new hashtag to organize tweets

If your business is hosting an event or creating a campaign where there will be a high volume of user generated tweets and conversations, you may choose to create a hashtag to organize all the tweets about the event.

What makes a good hashtag?

When creating a hashtag, there are a few things to consider. A hashtag should be:

  1. Short so it does not take up too much of the 140 character tweet limit. Otherwise you wouldn’t have enough characters remaining for the main message.
  2. Memorable so users can easily add it to their tweets.
  3. Understandable so users can easily read and understand the hashtag topic.
  4. Branded so you can increase brand awareness for the business and/or event.

It is also important to search Twitter to make sure no one else is already using the hashtag you want to create. Otherwise, tweets from two different events using the same hashtag may confuse users.

Lastly, make sure the hashtag cannot be accidentally misread by combining the letters differently or by how it is pronounced. A classic example is the hashtag created for Susan Boyle’s album launch party, #susanalbumparty. Enough said.

2. Leveraging existing hashtags to drive exposure

Existing hashtags can be an effective way to bring your tweets to the attention of users interested in the hashtag topic. The trick is to use established and popular hashtags that are relevant to the tweet. Hashtagify (http://hashtagify.me/) is a tool you can use to identify popular hashtags. Use it to determine what hashtags to include in your message.

Note: A tweet should not include more than 3 hashtags, otherwise, it may appear spammy. If you overuse hashtags, you may end up annoying Twitter users, appearing less credible, and losing followers.

Happy tweeting.