Hashtags is where Twitter really gets interesting. Today is therefore a little more complex than usual, apologies! The hashtag is, like the @message, a feature that was developed by early users of Twitter, and was taken up and integrated into the platform as it was so useful.
How to use hastags
Basically, the hashtag is a form of metadata. A # in front of a word signals that it is a keyword of some sort, tagging that tweet with a hash symbol (hence hash-tag). This means that you can easily search for all other tweets by other people containing that word similarly marked with a hashtag symbol. In fact, you don’t even need to search – if you click on any hashtagged term, it will search for you.
The hashtag for 10 Days of Twitter is, as you’ve guessed, #WBK10DoT. You can therefore search for any tweets containing that hashtag, whether you follow the people using it or not. It’s how I found out who was participating in 10 Days of Twitter on Day 2 when you sent a tweet with the hashtag in, and any tweets you’ve sent since using it.
If you’re a Mac user and wondering where your hashtag key is, you need to press the alt key and the 3 key together to make the # symbol!
A hashtag needs to be a single word, preceded by a # symbol, with no spaces or other characters. It doesn’t need to be a real word – it can be an acronym of some sort, like #WBK10DoT, and it needs to be understood, known or guessed by the people it’s relevant to. It could even be several words run into one (which counts as one word!) such as #ILoveTwitter (it can help to capitalise the individual words to make it easier to read). What it should be above anything else, though, is short, so that it doesn’t use up too many characters!
How do you know what hashtags to use, or to search for? You make them up! If you’re creating a new hashtag, it’s good to do a search first and check if it’s been used before, and if it has been used before, whether you are going to use it in a similar way for similar people. If so, you’re joining a larger, pre-existing conversation! If not, then you might be confusing things, with a hashtag meaning different things to different people. If you’re talking to a limited, known group, as I am here, or as you might at a conference, then the hashtag might be meaningless to outsiders (which is probably fine – people for whom it’s relevant will probably be aware of it already or easily figure it out). If you’re creating a hashtag hoping to start a larger discussion which is open to anyone, then it needs to be self-explanatory and something that someone might very likely search for or guess, like #adulteducation.
You’ll see people using hashtags you might be interested in when scanning your Twitter feed, and if you click on the hashtag, you will find all the other tweets using that hashtag recently.
More to explore
Hashtags really come in useful in different ways.
An open, extended discussion
Someone might start a discussion about a topic on Twitter which is open to all to contribute, and it is drawn together using a common hashtag. You can also use it to gather responses. For example #oer is a useful way for learning developers to share resources, guidelines and thinking on Open Educational Resources, and give the public an insight on this topic. You might also be interested in other hashtags for education.
A live chat is a conversation on Twitter which takes place in real time. A topic, time and a hashtag is agreed by the leaders, and they are joined on the day by people who want to talk about that topic with each other. Livechats can be fast and furious, but a great way to discuss, make new contacts and share experiences. Popular ones which you might be interested in are #LTHEchat, a weekly chat for educators in higher education to discuss learning and teaching and #EdchatDE, the german twitter chat for educators and others. Search for the hashtags to see what was discussed last time, and join in the next one!
To livetweet an event means to tweet about it while you’re actually participating in it. Conferences or seminar presentations are often livetweeted. This may be done in an official capacity, with organisers inviting participants to livetweet the papers, giving attendees a pre-agreed ‘official’ hashtag to use, running up to the event, during and after, to find out who’s going to be there, what the papers were about, and any follow-up questions. A good example of this is the #WBK17 for the Weiterbildungskongress A&PE 2017.
When you hear the phrase ‘trending on Twitter’, it means that there are a lot of people talking about the same thing, using a common hashtag. Trending hashtags are also displayed on the left-hand side of your profile page.
Activity for Day 5:
So – Find some topics that are useful to you and tweet about it. Tweeting using a topic hashtag is a great way to get noticed. Also look out for hashtags which mark a conversation you’d like to follow such as a livechat, livetweeting an event/conference (can be an upcoming event or past). If you find any good hashtag conversations, let us know! And remember to tag them with #WBK10DoT
Enjoy the hashtag day.