What’s a Hashtag, and Why Should I Care?

At IBM’s Impact event, Billy Crystal hosted the first day and much hilarity ensued out of Sandy Carter’s avid adoption of social media – especially Twitter. Sandy (sandy_carter if you care to follow her here – well worth it) incorporated tweets creatively into her keynote, showing screens with questions and comments. Like other non-tweeters, Billy loves to make fun of the idea, and the jokes that emerged when Sandy started explaining how the hashtag #ibmimpact was trending into the top ten were over the top. “I know about hash…” [pause] “and when my friends were involved with that, they did twitter a lot…” [pause] You get the idea. Great stuff, even for a techie audience.

But of course, Twitter is for real, and IBM’s use of it – especially Sandy Carter’s – is way out front and very effective. IT Market Strategy was not even at the event; we were following along in the webcast keynote IBM provided with On24. It was a great solution. And yes, hashtags were much in evidence and they made it possible to follow along. I was getting a constant stream of facts, comments, and yes, some jokes from fellow analysts and other attendees that helped me keep up with what was going on.

So I thought it might be useful to provide a little info for those of you who haven’t had a chance to catch up on hashtags and why they matter. I’ll assume you know about Twitter already (I have a very sophisticated audience.) A hashtag occurs when you use the pound sign (#) in front of a phrase within your tweets. It is a simple convention that has a history going back at least to IRC (internet relay chat), providing a flag that allows searchers to easily find tweets about that topic. So if you use search from the Twitter site, or build a search column within a Twitter client like my favorite Tweetdeck, you can keep up with what is going on in the twittersphere about that topic. Tagging an event has become an easy way for people to discuss and collaborate around content – it’s one of the places analysts from multiple firms meet up and kick ideas around. A terrific collaborative opportunity in an often competitive world.

If you search from the Twitter site, you can of course search for anything, hashtag or not, but the use of this convention makes it easier. It also makes it possible for you to see trending information on www.hashtags.org, an intriguing way to track how much certain topics may resonate – or not.  In Tweetdeck, if you see a hashtag and click on it you find yourself in a real-time tracker for that hashtag (I don’t know if this happens in other clients, but if you do, please leave a comment.)

You can find out tons more by just doing some searches. I could go on, but this is a hands-on topic. Go check it out. And if you have stories to tell, I’d love to have them here. Leave a comment. And I don’t mean that one about the hash in Amsterdam. Leave that to Billy Crystal.

About Merv Adrian
Gartner Research VP, technology analyst and consultant, 30 years of industry experience, covering software mostly, hardware sometimes.

5 Responses to What’s a Hashtag, and Why Should I Care?

  1. sandraanncarter says:

    Great article. We have used the hash a few times with great success. I’d love to chat with anyone who wants more details on the value we see from it!

  2. Merv Adrian says:

    Sandy, I’m flattered that you would take the time to respond during your brand’s biggest event of the year. Like so many other innovations, this one reflects commitment at the top to communicating frequently and adopting the ideas yourself. Congratulations on showing the way!

  3. amanda erlank says:

    Sandy
    thanks for the conference
    you are inspiering

    regards
    amanda
    woolworths sounth africa

  4. SSINFA says:

    Love to see how to do a follow through on a topic, or understand who creates them and how that is done…

    Please keep up the good work about Web2.0 etc.

    Thanks.
    §

  5. Merv Adrian says:

    thanks. I had not planned to do too much on this, but it has drawn a lot of interest, so I guess I’ll have to….

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