I am truly not afraid of displaying my ignorance for all to see. Especially if it serves as a means for helping others learn something new. Today I found out about “hashtags.”
It IS NOT a price sticker on a can of Hormel hash. It IS a method of categorizing or “grouping” topics on Twitter. The Twitter experience can be somewhat confusing, increasingly so as you grow the number of twitter-ers you follow. I see hashtags as an aid for commenting on a specific topic, organizing comments and encouraging dialog among twitter-ers on that topic.
Taken from the Twitter Fan Wiki:
Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They’re like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.
Hashtags were developed as a means to create “groupings” on Twitter, without having to change the basic service. The hash symbol is a convention borrowed primarily from IRC channels, and later from Jaiku’s channels.
hashtags.org provides real-time tracking of Twitter hashtags. Opt-in by following @hashtags to have your hashtags tracked. Similarly, Twemes offers real-time tracking without the necessity of following a specific Twitter account. Also, with their purchase of Summize, Twitter itself now offers some support of hashtags at their search engine: http://search.twitter.com
According to the Wiki, hashtag popularity boomed in 2007 when twitter-er Nate Ritter used it to tag updates about the San Diego wild fires. The Wiki writer advises that this feature is emerging and the rules of engagement are still in flux. Consequently, the writer advises that hashtags should be used sparingly. Suggested uses include: events or conferences; disasters; memes; context; or recall.
I can think of additional uses, including promotion of a business, product or service. However, as with any type of promotion, especially in a medium that prizes itself on casual conversation, excessive promotional use could be viewed as a turn-off. Twitter is a subtle tool that does not lend itself to hammer strikes. In any event, I would love to get some comments from Twitterafficionados as to their thoughts on best use of hashtags.