Technical Terms: Hashtag

Hashtags are a way of tagging posts and images on social media. They are used heavily on Twitter, Instagram and other services. You can search for posts by hashtag, and use them in your own posts. You don't need to do anything special to create a hashtag, just start using it. Sometimes hashtags are used to express an emotion or something more complex to put an ambiguous post into context, or just for humorous effect.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Technical Terms: Hashtag.

Today let's look at a term that even if you haven't heard the term you've certainly this element. It's called a Hashtag. A hashtag is basically a method of tagging information on social media which sounds really boring and you're probably thinking I've never seen anything like that. But you certainly have. You've seen it on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, and pretty much everywhere that people post information online. People will even use it in text messages and stuff even though it doesn't really belong there.

What a hashtag looks like is this. It's basically the hash symbol or as it's commonly called in America the pound symbol followed by a string of characters without any spaces. So there could be letters, there could be numbers in there. Sometimes there's underscores and dashes but usually not. Sometimes there's a single word like sunset. Sometimes it's a group of words like photooftheday. These are used to tag the information there.

For instance, if it's a photo on Instagram and it's a photo of a sunset you may include hashtag sunset (#sunset) in the description. So you may write something like, here's a photo I took of the beautiful sunset here where I'm visiting #sunset. You may also say #photooftheday if you're used to posting maybe your favorite photo of the day. People can post things like #family. A picture of their family or a sentiment about their family that they post to Facebook or something. #summer for something they feel is related to summer or #blackandwhite for a black and white photo, for instance.

You can also hashtag things by an event. So, for instance, it would be common if you tweeted about the Worldwide Developers Conference to put #wwdc2018 after it. This actually can help put the tweet or Facebook post in context or the photo on Instagram in context. You can just post something saying I learned a lot today which by itself would be kind of ambiguous. But if you then put #wwdc2018 then it means I learned a lot today and by the way I was at the Worldwide Developers Conference today so that is where I learned a lot. Or maybe I just met one of my heroes today, #comiccon. It's like, oh okay, you were at ComicCon where that happened. You can say something about having a great trip, #nyc. Okay New York City. Or it's great to see my family again, #christmas. Now you've kind of identified that as a post related to Christmas.

You can use hashtags for a lot. You can search by hashtags, for instance. So on Twitter you'll see a list of popular hashtags. So you'll see if there's a big event happening, or some big news happening. People are putting hashtags in their posts and then you can basically instead of searching for that hashtag manually by typing you can just click there. The same thing on other social media services as well. This is one of the purposes of hashtags. You hashtag something and other people are using the same hashtag and now people can say I want to see all the posts about the Worldwide Developers Conference and you can search by that hashtag and see all of those posts.

If you want to use a hashtag you can use existing hashtags that are there. So you can see that other people are using a hashtag, maybe at an event you're at, and then you can adopt that same hashtag and start putting that in your post that relate to that same event or place or time. Anything.

You can also just create your own. You don't have to do anything to create your own. You don't have to register it anywhere or do anything special. Just use it. If you're the first person to use it you've created a hashtag. Perhaps you're not the first person to use it so you're just joining in there. It doesn't matter.

Hashtags have been around since about 2007 although they predate that in some information networks. 2007 is when they started to be used on Twitter kind of just people started using them spontaneously. There wasn't an effort by Twitter to push hashtags. They just started using them and then Twitter went with the hashtags and then Instagram started using them and now they are everywhere.

A lot of times people use these for certain purposes. You may see a hashtag on a TV show and they'll put #TVShowName with the idea being is you're going to tweet about the TV show today use this hashtag and then everybody can actually look at everybody else's tweet about this TV show. It helps, of course, to promote the TV show. An ad slogan, advertisements, commonly include hashtags and they want everybody to use the same hashtag for that. Just any kind of cultural reference can be put in one.

Then there's a lot of alternate uses for hashtags. Sometimes people don't do it for indexing but they'll express something in it. So, for instance, they may post a picture of their dog and say #ilovepuppies. It's just a quick way, instead of writing out an entire sentence, boy I really love puppies, you just say #ilovepuppies and it is kind of a quick way to express an emotion or a feeling or an entire sentence of information. The same thing with #FoxhoundsAreAwesome. You know you just kind of create that. You just basically saying hey, I love my dog and here's a cute picture.

Sometimes you'll put something in context with the hashtag. Like, for instance, you may say, you know, here's something funny. Then post it like You're sweeter than 3.14. Then what does that mean? Well, then if you put #GeekPickUpLines, oh okay, the person is telling jokes here. Here's a geek pickup line and this is what it is. Instead of having to explain that you're telling a joke you put a hashtag there. People use it for those sorts of purposes and all sorts of other purposes online. They're a great way to just get little bits of information into your posts or to tag your photos. They're just ubiquitous and everywhere on the internet today.

Comments: 5 Responses to “Technical Terms: Hashtag”

    Tom Gonser
    9 months ago

    Helpful info for some of us that see “hashtags”, but don’t really understand the full context….

    John Hess
    9 months ago

    I wondered what they were. Do you just use the # key, print your message and then hit
    enter? Thank you.

    9 months ago

    John: Right, you just type # and letters. #likethis

    Michael Scott
    9 months ago

    How do Type hashtag? On my UK keyboard its symbol follows the primary £ one.

    9 months ago

    Michael: I believe it is Option+3. I also think the Option key on some UK keyboards is labelled “Alt” — look for the ⌥ symbol.

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