Twitter Hashtag: FAQ About Web’s Most Popular Symbol

hashtag

Note: Since this article was originally published in 2012, hashtags have spread across many social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, and more. If you’re looking for help leveraging the power of social media for your business, find out how Stikky Media’s social media management services can help.

For new Twitter users, #hashtags are a major chore. Most of the time they don’t make sense, and then there are all the horror stories about hashtag jacking and being banned from the search results for using too many.

So how do you make sense of all this madness? With our handy FAQ, or course.

What are Twitter Hashtags?

Twitter hashtags (denoted by the pound symbol: #) are a form of inline tagging used to unite global tweets around a particular topic. They’re a favourite tool of event and conference organizers (#sxsw, for example), but they’re also a way for Twitter users to organize themselves. If everyone agrees to use a specific tag for a topic on Twitter, like #BieberBeMyValentine for all posts relating to unhealthy obsessions with Justin Bieber, then the topic becomes easier to search and is more likely to show up in Twitter’s Trending Topics.

That’s amazing! How do I get a Twitter animated GIF as my profile picture?

Sorry, you can’t. Twitter has “had some difficulties” with animated GIFs, so they no longer support them. All existing ones will be left alone, but no new ones can be uploaded.

OK fine. How did you embed a tweet into your blog post?

This embed is courtesy of New New Twitter. The latest version has a handy-dandy feature that lets you embed a tweet directly from its permalink page. Simply click on “Embed this Tweet,” select HTML, Shortcode, or Link from the options box, then copy and paste the code provided into your blog or website.

What’s the history of hashtags?

The first one was born on August 23, 2007.

Chris Messina, a well-known advocate of the open web, noticed a widespread desire in the early days of Twitter: a means for groups to organize themselves. As Messina wrote on Quora,

“Any user could create a new group simply by tweeting with a word—however, there needed to be a way to separate the “meta from the meat”. I chose the hash symbol because it was a convention already established in IRC channels and on Jaiku. Any user could then “join” a group conversation simply by appending a given hashtag to their tweets.”

I don’t know what #lessambitiousmovies means. Is there a hashtag dictionary?

Hashtags aren’t an official Twitter function, so you won’t find a super reliable list of definitions. However, tagdef.com has a nice urban-dictionary-like collection of meanings. If the particular tag you’re after isn’t there, try hashtags.org. It’ll give you an overview of popular hashtags, including their use over time and what tweets they appeared in. That alone should give you enough context to figure out what it means.

Is is #possible to have #too #many #hashtags? #overkill

Yes. If you smother your tweets with hashtags, Twitter will label you a bot and subsequently ban you from the search results. Best practices say no more than 3 per tweet, and keep them relevant.

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