Monday, January 6, 2014

Hashtags are NOT Hashbrowns

Raise your hand if you don't know or only recently learned what hashtags are.

*Raises my own hand awkwardly*

If it's just me, that's ok. I am a little embarrassed to tell you, as a public relations major, I only recently learned the purpose of hashtags. But I like to keep it real on The Walker Fireside Chats, so there you go.

The first time I heard the term "hashtag", my first thought was "hashbrowns" quickly followed by "YUM!" It's not my fault, I like food, what can I say. Obviously the billions of posts on social media don't concern themselves with hashbrowns, so I decided if I was going to stay on top of the latest trends, I better do some research.

I pulled up trusty Google and did a search. I thought I would do a little tutorial for those of you who, like me, don't know what hashtags are, but are too embarrassed to admit it. It's ok. I took one for the team and admitted it for you. If you already know what hashtags are, feel free to chime in! Let's start from the beginning.

First of all, hashtags are NOT hashbrowns (obviously). Second, you probably have seen more hashtags than you realize on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Twitter is the hashtag mecca, but other sites have recently jumped on-board. Hashtags are always prefaced by a "#", hence the term "hashtag".

The purpose of a hashtag is to connect pieces of the same conversation from different users on social media. For example, on Instagram, there is a popular hashtag called "#dogsofinstagram". People typically use this when they are, naturally, posting pictures of their dogs on Instagram. If you click on the hashtag, you will be taken to another page which shows you all of the other people who have labeled a picture of their dog with "#dogsofinstagram". Fun, right?

From what I can tell (correct me if I am wrong), there is no set list of hashtags. This means you can reuse a hashtag you saw someone else use or make up your own. Chances are, someone else has already thought of that hashtag and you can see what content they labeled as well. For instance, I labeled one of my pictures "#texastothecore" and thought I was being pretty original, but I was not. Thanks to hashtags, I saw several other people who had posted Texas-loving pictures too.

I have been gradually using more hashtags, particularly on Facebook and Instagram (I haven't been converted to Twitter yet. GASP, yes I know). Hopefully this brief tutorial encourages you to try them out as well! I am definitely a fan of anything on social media which connects us to each other.