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How to Use Twitter Hashtags to Search and Create Community in Social Media

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Guest Post by Heidi Thorne

Hashing Out Twitter Hashtags

What the $%#!@^* is a hashtag on Twitter? Quite simply, hashtags are a way to help people organize and follow topics on Twitter.
Here’s how they work…

Like many searching functions on computers and the Internet, Twitter evaluates strings of text when you type a word in the Search box on your Home screen. It will search and evaluate tweet text for your desired word, regardless of if it is specially tagged or not. A standard search will return any tweet that has that word. Some of those tweets and Twitter profiles may be totally irrelevant to your needs.

On the other hand, if a tweet is tagged with a hashtag, and that hashtag is entered in Search, only those tweets that contain that tag will be returned in the results. Twitter users including a hashtag in their tweets have tagged their tweets as being relevant to a specific topic or group.

Can you see how this might help you locate other Twitter users that would be good connections?

Let’s look at a real life example. Because of my experience in the events arena, and because that market holds potential for my business, I wanted to find people in the event planning field on Twitter. Doing a standard word search for “events” revealed tons of tweets in which people were saying things such as “I have a lot of events this week” or “Hope to see you at those events.” Are those relevant? Probably not. I want people who are involved in the events planning arena and who are identifying their interest in it. Typing in “#” symbol hashtag and “events” (i.e. #events) in Search returned a wealth of people who are suppliers, planners, and others allied with the events industry.

But let’s take that one step further. Twitter users also use hashtags to say “I belong” to a specific group or community in the Twitterverse. It’s like wearing a team uniform or badge. One such community that I am involved with is called “eventprofs” which is a community of those involved with the tradeshow and events industry. This is an active community that, according to site WhatTheHashtag.com, had 475 contributors, averaging 245 tweets per day for the group, over the past seven days on the day I checked. Might those Twitter users be good connections for me to consider? I think so.

Here are some tips and tools for using Twitter hashtags:

  • Topic Search – If you are looking for possible hashtags to follow, go to http://www.hashtag.org. A list of hashtags and descriptions containing your search word will be returned.
  • Establishing a Hashtag Community – Many Twitter users create hashtags on the fly as they are typing. They usually do this as a shout-out to their followers that they are interested in certain topic. (Note: Some of them get very creative!) But if you would like to start your own hashtag community, go to the WhatTheHashtag.com site where you can enter the tag and its description, as well as obtain stats on hashtag trends. And don’t forget to tweet about your new hashtag so that your followers can start using it.
  • Follow a Hashtag in a Twitter App – Twitter applications such as HootSuite.com makes it easy for you to follow a hashtag. In HootSuite, you can add a feed column for a Search on your hashtag of choice. It will feed you all tweets containing that hashtag on a continuing basis. Great way to follow a topic or community… and find great new connections too.

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Heidi Thorne helps event and tradeshow professionals and associations “Keep Your Brand in the Hand of Your Customers” with carefully selected promotional products and marketing strategies. Her “Promo With Purpose” concept evaluates marketing objectives, image, and values in selecting the best way to build a brand, business, and community. Visit her blog at http://www.PromoWithPurposeToday.com and follow her on Twitter at @heidithorne.