With Facebook's announcement that they'll begin supporting hashtags on their platform, we felt that it would be helpful to lay out what hashtags are, how they're used, and how businesses can leverage them to facilitate engagement on social media. This post is the first of a three-part series that will give you what you need to know about hashtags and how to leverage them.
Hashtags are a new phenomenon in the American parlance, but the ever-rapidly-changing social media landscape has carved out some best practices for using them effectively. First, however, let's talk about what they are.
What are hashtags?
Formerly known as the pound sign (#), the hashtag came into use on the internet as a prefix metatag for identifying and common keywords or topics on (micro)blogging and social media platforms, most commonly Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Instagram. They're also used on Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook has announced today that they'll be joining the hashtag revolution as well.
Searching, Filtering, & Trending
The practical application of tagging posts with hashtags is that it allows users to search or filter for keywords and find related posts to that tag. On these platforms, trends emerge as hashtags as they are used more and more by users to denote their posts. As more users use a certain tag, the topic begins 'trending.' Trending refers to tags' rising to high levels of relevance and frequency, so if a topic is trending, it is becoming more and more popular. Hashtags also allow these platforms to cultivate content recommendations based on the popularity of certain tags within users' social networks. For example, my current Twitter trend recommendations look like this:
Today's Trends on Twitter
Right now, we're in the middle of E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, where gaming companies are premiering their respective offerings for the coming year. Sony has become extremely popular, as they have unveiled their new PS4 platform, which has been widely regarded as the victor over rival Microsoft's Xbox One for several reasons (after all, we don't see #xboxone among the top trends). Because of who I follow, my interests (as demonstrated through my tweets, followers, and hashtags), and the overall popularity of these topics, many of these tags have emerged over the last few days. Notice that Waze is also included, as Google announced this week their purchase of the mapping and directions app for $1.03 Billion, and I have an interest in tech-related mergers, making it a relevant hashtag for me.
Significant Events & Personal Sentiments
Alternatively, when significant events happen in the US and around the globe (such as a devastating natural disaster, a major political event, or a growing movement taking hold) those topics quickly trend to the top. Examples of some of these tags over the past few years include #HurricaneSandy, #ArabSpring, or #occupywallstreet. Hashtags are also used to denote personal sentiments, such as the above #thingsihatemost or #ReasonsWeStoppedTalking.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this series!