Hashtag under magnifying glass

In my post entitled “Safer Internet,” I used what we refer to as a “hashtag.” In the days before personal computers, this symbol was usually called the “pound sign.”

In this day of Social Media, the hashtag is an important search tool. Often, on Social Media sites, we search for people. However, many times we’d also like to search by subject. Enter the hashtag.

Let’s say I want to find pictures which others have posted on Instagram about Cairn Terriers. I would simply go to my Instagram search field and type #cairnterriers and hit enter. A list of related hashtags would appear and I simply click on the #cairnterriers one. A plethora of picture posts would appear in the search results. I could scroll through them all and discover that Gus, our Cairn Terrier, is still the cutest one around! (I might be slightly biased in my assessment but…)

If you haven’t used hashtags in your own posts or haven’t searched using them, here are some things you should know:

  • Just like in email addresses, capitalization doesn’t count. Searching using the hashtag #cairnterriers won’t bring you different results than if you searched with #CairnTerriers. Capitals might make your search look nicer but it makes no difference.
  • Often, when you search with a particular hashtag, related hashtags will also appear in the list. For instance, in IG (Instagram), when I searched #cairnterriers the resulting list also included #cairnterriersofinstagram, #cairnterriersarethebest and #cairnterriersofig and others.
  • When you search for a hashtag, each result will show the approximate number of posts. For instance, when I used my #cairnterriers hashtag, I saw that there were 88.4K of posts. See me next year after I’ve looked at all the pictures with this hashtag!
  • Hashtags are a great way to meet new people online – people who don’t follow you. In the case of my #cairnterriers, I’ve gained new friends from all over the world. What do we have in common? We own one or more Cairn Terriers and we discovered each other through the hashtag.
  • When you post on Social Media sites, it’s okay to use more than one hashtag at a time. However, I would caution against over doing it. Too many hashtags often just draw attention away from the substance of the post.
  • If you’re not sure what hashtag might bring you the results you want, experiment! Use your search field and try different hashtags.
  • You can actually make up hashtags. #PerhapsYoullStartANewTrend.
  • There are no spaces in hashtags.
  • Punctuation is not used in hashtags. Notice in the one I just made up, I didn’t type “You’ll” but, instead, I typed “Youll.”
  • You can use Bing or Google to search for a hashtag rather than just searching in a Social Media site. To narrow your search, you should use quotation marks. For instance, in Bing or Google search, I would use “#cairnterriers” and my results would be more about the hashtag and less about Cairn Terriers.

Now that you know some of the rules, go onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever Social Media platform you use and have some fun!