Twitter Tip Tuesday is a weekly blog series from Sprout Social: Insights. Every Tuesday we’ll focus on just one Twitter Tip and show you how to integrate it into your social media strategy.

Today’s Twitter Tip Tuesday: How to Use Twitter Hashtags

So what is a hashtag? Hashtags are simply keywords preceded by a hash symbol (“#”) that makes them both searchable and linkable on Twitter.

For example, let’s say you wanted to find out what Twitter users are talking about right now on the topic of Social Media. You can type the phrase “Social Media” (minus the quotes) in Twitter’s search field and you’ll get related results. You’ll notice from the previously-linked results that the phrase “social media” is bolded but not linkable.

Now try searching for the hashtag “#socialmedia” instead. (Note: hashtags have to be one continuous keyword, with no spaces in between words — and they are not case sensitive). This time you’ll find that the hashtag “#socialmedia” is actually a clickable link. If you click the hashtag in any tweet, you’ll display a live feed of every tweet that has that hashtag in it. You can find the most up to date tweets by clicking the bar that says “x new tweets.”

Hashtag search results for Social Media

Expose Your Tweets to Millions of Twitter Users

Twitter describes hashtags as “themes” for your tweets. In other words, when Twitter users include hashtags in their tweets, they are very deliberately assigning a unique theme to that tweet by virtue of its linkability to all other tweets containing the same hashtag.

Furthermore, users who include a hashtag in their tweets are assuming that it will be searched by other users who are interested in the same topic. This allows your tweets to potentially be seen by millions of users throughout the world who are searching for a certain hashtag. This is a powerful tool because, like Twitter Lists, it allows your tweets to be seen by people who don’t even follow you.

Start a Trend

If a hashtag is used by thousands and thousands of users simultaneously, it becomes what Twitter refers to as a “Trend”. Trending hashtags have the added benefit of appearing right in the Twitter Home page and are thus exposed to hundreds of millions of Twitter users!

Start a Twitter Chat

Hashtags that are used over and over again can become the defacto standard for a given topic. And when that hashtag is used to identify tweets that occur on a given topic that occur at the same time every week, this is what is known as a Twitter Chat.

By using a hashtag, participants in the chat don’t need to waste time or valuable characters explaining what the chat is about, they simply include the appropriate hashtag that stands for the name of the Twitter Chat, so everyone is automatically on the same page.

Have a Little Fun

One use of hashtags that often gets overlooked is simply to use them to have fun. Add an ironic hashtag at the end of your tweet, like #ThatJustHappened, for example — or you can hit Twitter pay dirt when your humorous hashtag is also a trending topic.