Hashtags: What are they and when do you use them?

HashtagsIf you’re new to Twitter, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with hashtags. So, what is a hashtag? According to Twitter, “The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.”

I’ve found that there are three main ways they are used:

  • Useful categorization
  • Twitter chats
  • Ironic or humorous commentary

If you want your hashtags to actually do something, you should use them strategically and sparingly. Do some research on your topics to see if there are commonly used hashtags and to avoid un-savory hashtags that may have different meanings than you might expect. Say you wrote a blog article on Twitter tips and you are about to post a link to it on Twitter. Good hashtags to use would be #Twitter and #socialmedia. It’s not a bad idea to wrap your hashtags into your tweet text to save on characters, so perhaps it’s something like, “10 Awesome #Twitter tips: LINK #socialmedia.”

Hashtags are also a great way to start a Twitter Chat. If you’ve ever participated in a webinar or online conference, you know that there is often an associated hashtag with the event. It’s a fun way to keep track of what people are saying so you can also reply, comment, and retweet. Do a couple tweet chats and you’ll notice your following grow, especially if you engage with other participants.

It may not be exactly a “Twitter Chat,” but I do love, love, LOVE participating in @midnight’s Hashtag Wars. If you aren’t familiar, you should look into it. It’s a pretty fun game. Warning: it can get all kinds of wrong!

Finally — let’s talk about the third main use for hashtags — ironic or humorous commentary. This is when someone posts something and includes a ridiculous hashtag for a funny commentary, not necessarily to gain visibility. It’s not a method I would recommend if you are trying to promote your posts, although if it’s funny enough, it might start to catch on! Example: That’s right, I spent 2 hours watching The Real Housewives of NY. #sorrynotsorryactuallyiamalittlebitsorry.

For an overview of using hashtags on Instagram, check out this article from One Gram at A Time: The Ins and Outs of Instagram.

Okay — that’s about all I can muster up on hashtags right now. Does anyone have anything to add? I’d love to chat about this and other social media marketing stuffs. Why don’t we use the hashtag, #justhashitout!




5-Step Twitter Recipe for Success

Social Media RecipesThis post is for those folks out there who recently signed up for Twitter and are feeling a little lost. Maybe you started your account because you read that you should be “out there” for brand awareness or to promote your products and services. You might be building your personal brand or posting on behalf of your company. Either way, you don’t get it. You’re frequently asking yourself “what’s the point?” No one is following you. No one is retweeting. Mythbuster: you don’t just sign up for Twitter and magically get a large following. As with everything in life, you need to work hard at it.

In the spirit of Dinnertime Marketing, I’ve developed a short recipe to help lost Tweeters get their sea legs. Give it a try for a month and you should see progress. It’s a simple recipe. Go on, try it. You’ve got nothing to lose!

5-Step Twitter Recipe for Success


  • Active (and optimized) Twitter account
  • Basic competency of people skills
  • Positive attitude!


  • Follow 5 people with similar interests
  • Favorite 3 posts that you actually find interesting
  • Retweet 2 tweets that you think your followers would like to see
  • Reply to a tweet with a sincere comment — it can be about the post, a compliment, a question, etc.
  • Tweet something meaningful to your brand/topic and use some dang hashtags

Repeat this once a week for a month. Benchmark your stats by taking note of your followers, retweets, favorites, etc. prior to starting this recipe. Something exciting I just learned: Twitter has analytics! You just need to activate Twitter ads (but you don’t have to actually purchase them).

After going through these motions for a short while, tweeting will feel more natural. You may even start having fun with it as people engage with you! Your Twitter account will continue to evolve, and at this point the training wheels come off. You become one with Twitter. Go with the flow. Participate. Engage. Rejoice.

Also, don’t forget to check out my Twitter Tips article for even more tweety-goodness. This post comes paired with leftover Chicken Ranch from my daughter’s birthday party. #noms

5 Newbie Twitter Tips (#Twips) to Build a Following

New to Twitter and not sure where to start? Don’t be overwhelmed with all those hip folks RTing, MTing, #hashtaging, and whatnot. I forgot where I heard this — I could Google it, but I just don’t care that much — but here’s how to think about Twitter: Facebook is full of people you know and don’t really like; Twitter is full of strangers you like and share interests with. Personally, I had no interest in Twitter until it became part of my job; now it’s my favorite form of social media. Here’s how to start a foundation of followers.

Start following. Once you create your Twitter account, you need to start following people. What is the goal of your account? Fun? Specific interest? Work-related? You’re going to want to follow people that you would like following you. If you’re really into Star Wars and Knitting, start looking for people with similar interests.

Engage. In addition to tweeting things you find interesting or humorous, you need to engage in order to build a following of tweeps. Check those folks you follow and retweet or favorite their posts. You can also tweet to them: agree, disagree, comment, etc. Create a conversation. If/when they reply, keep them engaged.

Mind your manners. As people follow you, retweet, or favorite your tweets, thank them! You’ll notice that a little kindness goes a long way in the Twitterverse.

Leverage trends. Always be mindful of what’s trending — you can often leverage trends to get noticed, especially if you’re clever with the trending hashtags. On the flip side, being aware of what’s trending is important to avoid certain topics that might make your tweets seem insensitive. Oh, and don’t go nuts on hashtags, two is plenty!

Tag, you’re it! Tag people’s handles when appropriate in order to get their attention. If you’re mentioning a company or product, check first to see if there’s a Twitter account for it.

This should get you going — you’ll see your followers increase in no time, and they should be people who are actually interested in what you have to offer!

This post comes paired with Nom Nom Paleo’s Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs. No real correlation here, they are just bloody good.