Hashtags help journalists find people tweeting about topics they are covering. They also help people who are interested in the topics you cover find your tweets.
We’ll start with the basics: A hashtag is the # symbol, followed immediately, with no space, by a word or phrase: #twutorial. In tweets, the hashtag becomes a hyperlink you can click to go to a search of recent tweets using the hashtag.
Journalists use hashtags in two primary ways: to find tweets and to help others find their tweets.
Non-journo tweeps use hashtags in at least four primary ways that are helpful to reporters: regular hashtags, event hashtags, breaking-news hashtags that catch on and humorous hashtags.
I’ll address these four types of hashtags in how they are helpful in both of the journalists’ uses: finding tweets and reaching people with your tweets:
People with shared interests will use regular hashtags to help others find related tweets. For instance, journalists in Digital First Media will frequently use #DigitalFirst or #dfm in tweets that relate to our company. Every Wednesday at noon Eastern time, we use #dfmchat for a chat on Twitter about some journalism issue.
In the same way, people interested in the topics or communities on your beat may use hashtags regularly, such as #KingstonNY for tweets about news, life and issues in Kingston, N.Y., or #Mizzou for tweets about the University of Missouri. #Breaking is used widely in Twitter and by Breaking News to gather tweets about, well, breaking news.
As you read tweets about the topics and communities you cover, watch for these regular hashtags. You can save them as regular searches to check from Twitter.com or a mobile app or as columns to monitor in TweetDeck or HootSuite. These regular hashtags should become as faithful a part of your beat routine as morning cop checks for a police reporter or afternoon filings in the clerk’s office for a courthouse reporter. They will produce story ideas and tweets to embed in daily stories. They will alert you to breaking stories. They will help you connect with new sources.
Similarly, use the regular hashtags in your own tweets. People following the hashtag but not following you will see your tweets (and perhaps start following you).
Dan Podheiser, former sports editor of the Register Citizen in Torrington, Conn., used #Hawkeyes in a tweet posting a link to a story about a local high school football player who had signed to play with the Iowa Hawkeyes. The hashtag helped lots of Hawkeye fans see his tag and read his story.
Image, CC-licensed thanks to Miss Pixels on Flickr.
This post first appeared on Steve Buttry's blog, The Buttry Diary and are reposted here with permission. Buttry is the director of community engagement and social media at Digital First Media. To read the full article, click here.