What is a Hashtag?

So, what is a Hashtag?

First thing you need to know that is has to do with Twitter, the microblogging service, which is quickly becoming mainstream (even the local tire store, now advertises their Twitter username).

How does a Hashtag look like? How do you recognize a hashtag?

A hashtag is easily recognizable within a tweet… just look for an “#”. The hashtag is the # plus the word or acronym behind it.

#edchat Hashtag

#AETC2010 - Conference Hashtag

Millions of people are on Twitter. They are tweeting “What’s Happening?”. As a user, you choose who you want to follow and how many you want to have in your network. You find people who have similar areas of interests or similar professions and read in your personalized time line which is populated with their tweets.

How to find specific topics though? How to create a “thread” that has specifically something to do with a particular topic or event?

Creating a Twitter Thread of a Particular Topic

How can you even pull in tweets about that topic from people you don’t normally follow? In comes a Hashtag!

I really liked the definition of “Hashtags”, I read on 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.

The emphasis of a hastag ,for me, is that it is “Community Driven”, meaning that it will only work if members of a community are in accordance with and have agreed to use the same hashtag in order to contribute to a discussion and collaboratively “thread their tweets”.

As Converge Magazine wrote in the article “One Hashtag Helps Educators Change their Schools“,

Every day on Twitter, educators discuss issues they’re facing, share advice and pass on resources. But as Tom Whitby found out when he started debates on the social network, conversations can be hard to follow, especially when they’re mixed in with a bunch of tweets from other people.  That’s where the hashtag edchat comes in. Whitby worked with Shelly Terrell and Steven W. Anderson to provide a time, a place and a tag for educators to talk about major issues.

#Edchat, is a great example of how a hashtag can help you filter through Twitter chatter and zoom in onto one discussion thread. When searching for a hashtag, it is easy to pull together all the contributions, regardless if you follow the Twitter user or not. Check out all the  transcripts of different edchat topics on the EdChat wiki.

Trancript for "#edchat" Hashtag

In addition to threading a particular topic of discussion, hashtags are increasingly used as a way to bring conference or event attendees (physical and virtual ones) together. The hashtag serves a way to create a backchannel for the event or conference.

Cliff Atkinson, in his book, The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever, defines a backchannel as follows:

A backchannel is a line of communication created by people in an audience to connect with others inside or outside of the room

A hashtag for a conference or an event can extend past a particular presentation, workshop and even the physical conference days. The hashtag serves as a way to pull together all tweets related to the conference. A way to collaboratively document different sessions, link ideas and thoughts, thread emerging discussions happening at the physical conference as well as virtually around the globe. The hashtag particularly facilitates virtual attendees to search for conference related tweets and be able to participate by “having a voice” in the discussion as they include the hashtag in their tweets.

As mentioned above, a hashtag is community driven. Pulling together a threaded documentation or discussion will be ineffective or full of holes, if a conference community does not include the hashtag in the tweets or  different hashtags are circulating.


Hashtag for Curriculum Mapping Institute

It is a good idea for conference organizers to establish a particular conference hashtag ahead of the start of their event.

  • Double check that it is not already in use and circulating by a different event
  • Publicize the hashtag to your conference attendees and presenters
  • Encourage and remind them to use the hashtag when tweeting about the conference
  • Tweet about the conference, include the hashtag and invite virtual attendees to follow the hashtag to join in the conversation

Think of a hashtag this way…

Imagine the chatter about different topics going on Twitter like…

… a spilled bag of colorful beads…

…then imagine…

… the thread that will lace the beads, which go together to make a necklace, as the hashtag…