What the $@#! is a hashtag, anyways?

Alright. It’s here. PUGTATO’s really easy Hashtag 101.  I’ve gotten a lot of questions about hashtags and how to use them.  Here we go!

Hashtags are one word or multiword groups preceded by a the poundsign, aka, the hashtag.  You can use just one word or you can string multiple words together. Essentially, hashtags create a hyperlink that pulls up all the data tagged with that particular hashtag. The use of a hashtag before a word or group of words strung together creates a type of ‘tag’ or ‘metadata’ that if used frequently enough allows for a topic to trend on Twitter or Instagram, bringing more people into the conversation.

TIP: make sure you are using a relevant hashtag or you’ll find yourself in a conversation with yourself, defeating the purpose of said hashtag. Meaning, the hashtags #iwishitwas70degreesout or #whydoesmyinboxhavesomanyemailstoday are probably not being posted by anyone else at the same time.  As you are getting started with hashtags try general terms like, #weather, #summer or #work to see what people are posting about and what you might want to use as a hashtag.  Then you can get more creative with your tags as you get more experience!

By searching for information via a hashtag, marketers or regular users can see all the tweets and images related to that hashtag. Hashtags are a really useful tool and a great way to organize information, find people and topics to connect on/with and to gather valuable data from your customers.

Hashtags also can help make what could otherwise be an overwhelming amount of data on twitter, seem less overwhelming.  Want to hashtaglearn about a certain subject? Search for a hashtag related to that subject- you’ll find users, other related subjects and interesting articles all under the umbrella of your topic.  Want to chat with other people around the globe interested in the same topic as you?  Find the next ‘tweetchat‘ dedicated to that topic, sign on to twitter and tweet away using that hashtag.  During a tweetchat, there can be hundreds of users all gathered remotely together to connect about a subject that’s important to them.

So what about the hashtags I see on Facebook? You know the ones people use that are 500 characters long and of no relevance to anyone, anything or any topic?  The ones that are not hyperlinks and leave you confused? Please see my public service announcement below:

Hashtags do not, I repeat, do not, work on Facebook (yet). Please do your friends a favor, and don’t embarrass yourself by using them on Facebook.

Ok, now that I’ve finally gotten that PSA off my chest, let me just throw out the  only exception to that PSA: when posts are linked from Instagram or twitter and they post automatically to Facebook.  This is the only situation where hashtags are semi-appropriate on Facebook, because you can’t feasibly delete the hashtags on an auto populate post in transition.

Moving on. Let’s check out Symplur. Symplur is a firm that makes my heart sing.  They are focused on the “global shift in how patients and the healthcare industry connects” using social media data to help sort the conversation and make the data useable.  I get all amped up on this stuff. It’s awesome.  Symplur has created the “Healthcare Hashtag Project,” which has three goals:

  1. Discover where healthcare conversations are taking place
  2. Discover the people you want to follow in your specialty or disease
  3. Discover the best conferences in real-time or in archive

Symplur’s healthcare hashtag project collects all the relevant healthcare hashtags and new healthcare hashtags, effectively creating a gold mine of data for any healthcare marketer or tweeter who has an interest in healthcare. Not only will you find the top trending healthcare hashtags, but they have collected a list of twitter chats with times so that you can keep track of the relevant conversations happening in your area of interest, and you can find relevant in-person conferences happening globally.  Can’t make it to the conference? Start following the conference hashtag to get real-time updates!

I get all amped up on this stuff. It’s awesome.

By using Symplur’s HCSM database, which is available to anyone and everyone, I have been able to connect with so many people who I never would have. Hashtag tagging helps make a huge medical conference a small community.   I have found and connected with providers who are attending conferences and are interested in healthcare social media.  Together, we can start a small revolution.  As you know, HCSM is its beginning stages.  We’ve got a ways to go before all mainstream physicians are on board.  I’m working on it! I hope this has been a helpful.  Hashtags are a fantastic tool when used properly.  So get out there and connect with others, learn something new, and whatever you do, stop using hashtags on Facebook, pronto!

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