Think of hashtags as like the “Google” of Twitter. They’re just a new name for the same meaning of “keyword.” Where Google is the way we search the Internet, hashtags are the way of searching the Twitterverse, or Twitter Universe.
Hashtags are very helpful way to use Twitter and actually make it a little easier to keep up with the bombardment of instant information. Here are some examples of what a hashtag looks like:
#NBA, or even
It’s just the pound sign plus a key word or two all strung together. Whether you use capital letters to separate the words doesn’t really matter as long as you mush the words together.
Using hashtags is a great way to keep track of certain topics on Twitter. For example, you should probably keep up with what people are saying about your agency as much as you can. That’s why I created a #richmondpolice hashtag that I saved as a column in my HootSuite Twitter feed. (For more on how I use HootSuite, check out this post
.) This way, whenever anyone mentions my agency, I usually see it. This can be helpful if you want to respond to people; correct misinformation; or just know what people are saying about you in general.
Hashtags would also be greatly effective if you have a specific incident that’s ongoing, and you want people who are interested in the incident to be able to follow what people are saying about it. For example, if there was a shooting in a highly populated area of town and you wanted to find witnesses, you could tweet that you’re looking for witnesses and use a hashtag like #ElmMallShooting. People who saw or were near the incident, would retweet, or share, your tweets with others. A person who may have witnessed the incident, but doesn’t follow your agency on Twitter, would likely see the hashtag, and use it, thus linking you two and providing a way to communicate.
You should definitely use the major hashtags for your city. Almost every city has one. For Richmond, it’s #rva. For New York City, it’s #nyc. For Chicago, it’s #Chi. There’s no one that’s necessarily right, but there are some that are more popular than others. For example, in Roanoke, Virginia, tweeters use both #rke and #roa.
Whenever you tweet, you should almost always use your city hashtag. That way, people who live in your city, but may not follow you, have a chance to see what you’re tweeting. You want as many people as possible to hear your message and follow your tweets if they’re interested. Using a hashtag is the best way to do that.
Overall, using hashtags is a great way to communicate and connect with your community on Twitter, be it before, during, or after an event.