When did the pound sign become a frequently used key on our boards? Positioned inconspicuously above the number three, we have to hit the shift key to even use it on most laptops.
Thanks to Twitter, that little symbol has become the go-to button for categorization. But why?
Well, when we're talking about a social networking site that has more than 190 million users, it is easy for your tweets to become lost in the mix. Adding a '#' to any tweet – or hashtagging it– gives it a category, and ultimately a higher amount of views.
For example, if you wanted your tweets about Chicago Heights to be grouped with any other tweets about the city, you would add the hashtag "#chicagoheights" to the mix.
You could even incorporate the hashtag into the actual message in your tweet. An example of that would be "I just started a new job in #chicagoheights." If anyone else tweets about Chicago Heights and uses the hashtag, your tweet will be categorized with their tweet. That way, if someone's followers click on "#chicagoheights" in the tweet, they will be taken to a list of all the tweets with that hashtag, including yours.
Confusing? Maybe a little. Just remember that when you hashtag a word or phrase it will be added to a list of tweets that have that same word/phrase hashtagged.
Hashtags become even more important when dealing with "Trending Topics," a feature that highlights the most popular conversations going on in the Twitter-verse.
Right now, one of the biggest Trending Topics on Twitter at the moment is "#prayforjapan" for obvious reasons, but hashtagged topics are not the only trends. Cyclist Cadel Evans is also one of the most popular topic today, and he's not even hashtagged.
As you tweet, always think about which buzz words other people will be searching. For instance, if you want to tweet a link to a Patch story, use the hashtag "#Patch" to catch the attention of other Patch users.
This has been another edition of Step By Step. If you have any questions about hashtagging, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or just ask in the comments.
Follow Chicago Heights Patch on Twitter at Twitter.com/TheHeightsPatch