Hashtags on Twitter signify a lot of things, but above all, using them signifies a seasoned Twitter user. Still haven't figured out how to deploy the pound sign with a bunch of words behind it in a way that makes sense? Maybe this taxonomy of the ten kinds of hashtaggers will help.
Way back in ye olde aught seven, a humble man named Chris Messina proposed a convention for nerds to organize at events: The pound sign, making groups easily searchable. Lo and behold, the #hashtag was born. Today, events like SXSWi now tell people exactly which hashtags to use to organize the outbound flow of thousands of tweets.
The beauty of hashtagged events is that you don't even need to physically be there to participate. Have you been to another talk by that speaker? Add your thoughts with the hashtag! Do you think it would be funny to say the scheduled speaker was arrested just before they went on stage? Add your thoughts with the hashtag! Remember, the most important thing is what YOU think.
Do you remember back when you would turn on the TV and it would just be a picture? Just whatever show you wanted to watch and nothing else? Me neither. Network logos stuck on screen at all times have been popular for the better part of a decade. Over the past few years we've seen the rise of in-show pop-up ads, often with graphics and sound, as an advertisement for other shows on the network. And now, over the past few months, we've seen the rise of hashtags being displayed throughout the entirety of the show.
So not only is the TV telling you what channel you're watching, and what TV show to watch next, it's now telling you how to talk about the TV show you're watching right now — what a great way for fans to connect over a TV show. Just think of all the meaningful things you can pack into 140 characters when half of it is taken up by a gigantic hashtag. (No really, start thinking! It's hard.)
With Twitter, what may seem like one small tweet for a man can turn out to be a giant tweet for mankind.
Alyouka was the first person to tweet #jan25, the hashtag which ended up becoming a Twitter rallying cry for the Egyptian revolution. Since then Tunisia, Syria and America have started using Twitter for their revolutions with up to 100,000 different hashtags being used for the #Occupy movement.
If you hate protesters, hashtags are great for you too: Since the conversation is centralized you can flood the hashtag with spam to drown out dissidents. Everybody wins. Or loses.
If you're a corporation you're gonna want to promote your tweets. It doesn't really matter which ones — you just gotta become part of the conversation. Take your cue from a company like Blockbuster who promoted the below tweet in an attempt to lure those savvy consumers searching the #Oscars hashtag a month after the Oscars aired.
But maybe that's not enough. If you want your PR flotsam to really float to the top of the stream, then you should try to get a celebrity to use your hashtag.
Getting paid to sponsor products isn't new for celebrities, with some getting thousands of dollars per tweet.
If you want to hashtag like your favorite celebrity, BE MUNDANE! Because anything they say will become popular, celebrities tend to be the most boring hashtaggers.
A few weeks ago, Justin Bieber tricked his followers into becoming the loudest, most boring clock in the world by having them countdown to the release of his newest single.
Are you a narcissist? OMG ME TOO. It's like Twitter was made for us? (Was it? It probably was.)
I'm not sure many people have what it takes to step up to Kimora's level of #all #hashtagging #all #the #time.
Another method she demonstrates is using the #fb hashtag to way to tell her Twitter followers, "I finally have something important to say and I want to share it with my real friends on Facebook."
Remember those chain letters where you would answer random personal questions and then you'd foward them on to a friend?
Weren't they a totally awesome artificial construct designed to let you share arbitrary personal thoughts about yourself with a handful of friends and whoever else they wanted to reshare them with?
On Twitter, like in life, you don’t have to be a celebrity or even say anything particularly interesting to become popular. The tweet above has been retweeted over 3,000 times and was prominently featured in Twitter’s trending topics.
Or if you're a company you can just shoehorn your product in with amazing results.
Other people take popular hashtags that they see as objectionable and redirect their focus.
For some people, the only time they use hashtags on Twitter is for hashtag games where people make jokes on a theme. They're a great way for funny people to be funny and for not funny people to think they're funny.
Perhaps you were one of the 6 million people who saw that video of a guy supposedly flying by flapping his kitewing-affixed arms. There was a lot of speculation about whether this video was faked by people weighing in with science.
But anyone who knows about Twitter hashtags could tell that it was fake without even watching the video, just look at the tweet.
Who is doing a search for #bird? Or #flying for that matter. No one. If you really did something that incredible you wouldn't have to try to grab the attention of the extremely bored or stupid people doing a Twitter search for #bird.
If all of Twitter's a stage then all the men and women are merely players & the hashtag is our modern aside, a superliminal peek into the tweeter's state of mind.
If you're insecure, you should employ this convention heavily. No joke should be unremarked on and no sentiment left ambiguious. #jk #nobutseriously #seewhatididthere
Sarah Pavis is an engineer, writer and avid overthinker.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.