Twitter hashtag guide

Hashtags are a very useful tool to make Twitter much easier and less time consuming to use.

– What is a hashtag?

In a Twitter message if you see a phrase preceded with the # symbol, it’s called a hashtag. A hashtag should only contain letters of the alphabet and numbers, no symbols or spaces please.

Hashtags are not case sensitive, so #agrichatuk #AgriChatUK or even #AGRICHATUK are all allowed. However using mixed capitals can make the tag easier to read, like #FarmPics.

It is useful if hashtags are short, as this leaves more room for the rest of your tweet. A hashtag can go anywhere in a tweet, start, middle or at the end.

You can use more than one hashtag in a tweet, but more than two gets messy.

– Why do people use hashtags?

There are mainly two reasons for adding a hashtag.

Firstly you can add them like a bookmark, to flag up your tweet as being associated with a particular subject. This is the most common use.

Secondly a minor use is to add your emotion or humour, such as #frustrated, #thrilled or #GotItWrongAgain.

And then there is #ff, which you may see on a Friday. More on this later.

– How do I find tweets containing hashtags?

The key here is to search on the hashtag you are interested in.

Twitter has a built in search facility, however if you search on car for example it will find the latest tweets containing car, card and carpet, plus many other variations.

A hashtag search helps to cut down on the extra ‘finds’, as it only searches text beginning with a #, which are usually specific posts, not random jottings.

If I search on #M20, it finds all the latest traffic reports from fellow Twitter users about the M20 motorway near where I live.

 – How can I benefit from other peoples hashtags?

By searching on a hashtag you can find tweets about subjects that interest you. You can then follow the ongoing tweets about that subject, without having to follow all the people posting on that subject.

That’s the key to #AgriChatUK, the UK farming chat. By searching on the hashtag you will see the questions from the host poster, Q1 Q2 etc, and all the replies by those taking part. If you post your reply and add the hashtag, everyone else will see your reply, whether they follow you or not.

Another benefit from hashtags is that they are a good way to find people to follow. If you search on #AgriChatUK you will find tweets from others with an interest in UK farming, the sort of people you might want to follow.

 – What hashtags can I use.

The simple answer is anything you like. Although there are websites with lists of regularly used hashtags, you are free to make them up as you go along. If you want to make a comment on a subject and you want it to be seen widely, try searching on a hashtag first which you think might be appropriate. If it’s already being used, then that will help get to get your tweet seen.

At times you will find hashtags being suggested as an aid to group together tweets. This happened at the 2012 NFU conference for example, where the hashtag #NFU12 was on the front of the delegates paperwork.

If you watch ‘Question Time’ on the BBC, you will see BBCQT flashed up on the screen at the start of the programme.

– What is the hashtag #ff that I see every Friday used for?

This is a bit of fun that started a few years ago. FF stands for Follow Friday.

People will do tweets with the twitter @ names of people they would like to suggest that other people follow. This may be because they feel that person writes interesting tweets, or it may be that person is new to Twitter and could do with a few more followers to encourage them. They add #ff to signpost the reason for all the @ names in their tweet.

This is one case where it is not a good idea to search on a hashtag, as #ff will result in a random group of suggestions from people all over the world that have no connection to you or any subject you are interested in.

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