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Hashtags: #whatisthis

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Hashtags. It seems like everywhere you look people are talking about hashtag this or hashtag that. Unless you spend a lot of time on social media, you might be wondering what all this hashtag business is about.

Let’s start with the basics: a hashtag is a pound symbol (#) followed by a string of numbers, letters, and symbols. Hashtags are most commonly used on social media in the captions of posts, serving as a sort of label for the post. So, let’s say you upload a picture of a rose to Instagram and hashtag it #rose. When someone searches for rose, your image will come up along with all the other images with #rose. In this way, it helps social media sites find what people are searching for. Now, why is this important for you? Because of searching, using hashtags is one of the major ways people discover content that they like. If you are passionate about a specific topic and post about it online, using some hashtags related to the topic will help connect you to other people who share the same interest. On Instagram, you can even follow hashtags like you would a person. Doing so will show you all the popular recent posts with that hashtag.

People also use hashtags for events as a way of organizing and finding photos online. Let’s say at a wedding they have a hashtag like #smithwedding2019. If you go online after the event and search “Smith Wedding 2019”, you will see all the photos of the wedding taken and uploaded by the guests.

Another use of hashtags is with online movements and activism – showing support for a cause that you care about. The hashtag #metoo gained a lot of momentum in the latter part of 2017 as a show of support for those who were victims of sexual assault. It continued to pick up steam and resulted in many real-world ramifications. Regardless of people’s personal opinions on the #metoo movement, it presents as one of the most striking examples of the power of hashtag activism.

Hashtags are completely free to use and no one owns them. All you have to do to use one is type something in after a “#” symbol in the text area of a post on any social media platform. The tag ends once you push the space bar. If you are using a tag with two or more words, exclude the space between them or only the first word will get recognized as the hashtag. Hashtags have a maximum length, 140 characters, but in practice, shorter ones are better because they are searched for more often. Hashtags are also not case sensitive, meaning it reads upper and lowercase letters the same. For a normal post, 3-5 hashtags are generally sufficient.

Hashtags can be used on almost every social media platform including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. However, they are much less commonly used on Facebook and Twitter. Instagram uses them much more frequently because the site isn’t able to identify what the subject or content of an image is on its own. So hashtags serve as a labeling system for the images that the site can understand. Facebook and Twitter don’t rely on them as heavily because the sites use much more text – which the search function can understand. However, they still are used for social causes, movements, and organization on these sites. For example, “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” uses hashtags to allow fans to submit stories and answers to questions and prompts, the best of which are read on air. Several days before the show, this late night TV talk show tweets what the hashtag is and the topic. Then people share their responses with the hashtag to enter.

As you can see, hashtags are a very versatile tool with many uses in our modern world. No matter how you use them, hashtags are the wave of the future. They are becoming more and more important and even gaining influence outside of social media.

Now that you have a better idea of what hashtags are and how they work, try adding a couple to your next social media post. #nowyouknow

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