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Making the most of hashtags on Twitter

Twitter hashtag image - resized for feature imageHashtags provide a quick and easy way to search, organize, and share information on Twitter.

What are they?

Hashtags can be any word preceded by the # symbol. Using them lets you associate your tweets with a larger topic (e.g., #HIV), group, or conversation.

Why use them?

Adding hashtags to your tweet is like adding keywords that make your message globally searchable. Add them when you are tweeting on a specific topic. You can use hashtags that are already in use to join in on the conversation—or make up a new one to start a new topic.

Hashtags usually refer to such things as:

How to create them?

Creating hashtags is easy. Simply put a # symbol in front of the phrase you want your tweet associated with. Here are 2 examples:

If you want your tweet to show up on the Twitter feed showing all HIV-related tweets, simply include #HIV Exit Disclaimer in your post, as in this recent tweet Exit Disclaimer:

New SMAIF funding opportunity from @HRSAgov to increase community health workers for #HIV Exit Disclaimer services. Apply by July 12 Exit Disclaimer

You can also include a Twitter hashtag as a part of a regular sentence to direct people to a Twitter conversation. Here’s how our Black Voices blogger Deondre Moore did it for National HIV Testing Day –

“..join me and many others today as we #SpeakOutHIV Exit Disclaimer. Be engaged and use your social media platforms to encourage friends and family to get tested for HIV. Share with us why it’s important to #KnowYourStatus Exit Disclaimer.

A few rules for making a hashtag:
  • No spaces
  • No punctuation or unusual characters (such as currency or punctuation symbols), though underscores are okay.
  • Don’t overuse hashtags: Too many in a tweet makes it look like spam and will turn people off.
  • Put your hashtag in context: Give a short explanation that includes the hashtag to explain what it’s about.
  • Be sure the hashtag adds value: Use them when you need to organize information, such as on a conference, major event, or a reminder.
  • Choose a hashtag early if you are organizing an event; make it simple (for example, #AIDS2016 Exit Disclaimer instead of #InternationalAIDSConference), and remind attendees in all your communication about the hashtag.
  • For non-Twitter users, provide a conversation tracker tool on your website. You can make one with EverWebWidgetBox Exit Disclaimer or Exit Disclaimer.
Where to follow hashtags?

Many tools are available to help figure out which hashtags offer the best chance of being widely seen. Here are a few:

TWUBS.COM Exit Disclaimer: This service aggregates tweets, hosts Twitter chats, and provides features that let you organize hashtags.

HASHTAGS.ORG Exit Disclaimer: This service provides hashtag analytics for your brand, business, product, service, event, or blog. It also offers graphs and hour-by-hour information on top hashtags.

WHATTHETREND.COM Exit Disclaimer: This service makes it easy to learn about trending hashtags.

SYMPLUR.COM Exit Disclaimer: The Healthcare Hashtag Project provides a running, ranked listing of healthcare related hashtags, allowing you to follow such specific topics as diseases and conferences.

Using hashtags on Twitter is the best way to cut through to the specific topics you want to follow. They also allow you to target your own content directly to those most likely to be interested in it. You might say hashtags are guideposts through the Twitterverse.