What’s in a hashtag?

This post is part of a series written by zcomm interns. Be sure to check back each week for their take on the latest in the public relations industry. Hailey explains the use and misuse of a Twitter hashtag below.

Definition: 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 (Twitter Help Center).

Although many Twitter users may consider this definition common sense, some definitely don’t understand the concept. Each time I read through my Tweets, I come across at least one that leaves me #smh (shaking my head). Here are some examples:

#howdoiexplainthisglitter
#bowwowwowyippeeyoyippeeyaywheremydogsat
#doyouthinktheywilldelievertonyc
#istillhatethisbigkidlife
#runningoutofwaystoprocrastinate
#idontcareaboutyourcereal
#goingtobeacrazycatlady
#thingsidowhenirunoutofranch
#itsnotlikeisinnedordidanythingimmoral
#iwishihadmorehummus

Hashtags should be keywords, not key sentences or paragraphs. Some of these hashtags take minutes to decipher, and others are too long to even try. If you’re talking about glitter, hashtag that word, not the entire thought.

Hashtags are meant to categorize Tweets. If I see that someone used #TFM, I can easily click the hashtag to see all other Tweets describing a “total frat move.” If I search #Linsanity, I can follow the hype surrounding New York Knicks phenomenon Jeremy Lin. But If I click #thingsidowhenirunoutofranch, I get nothing but a headache from decoding the jumble of words.

Twitter can be an incredibly useful and influential tool, but only if it’s used correctly. If you’re like my hashtag-abusing peers, check out Twitter’s Best Practices page for some more insightful tips.

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