March 17, 2013 at 4:21 PM ET
Hashtags are everywhere — except for Facebook.
You'll find the keywords, which begin with the "#" symbol and allow you to search for topics, on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and video app Vine, but not on the world's largest social network.
That could change, according to a report. Facebook is said to be enabling hashtags to help users group and find related content by using the simple and powerful # symbol. And that could throw a whole batch of social media users for a loop.
Your Uncle Joe uses Facebook. But does he use Twitter , the originator of the hashtag system? Most likely, he does not.
Hashtags help people find your work, find others with similar interests or start conversations with other event attendees. They can also be extraordinarily helpful in a disaster. In fact, one of the first uses of a hashtag happened in 2007 when a Twitter user wanted to keep everyone updated about fires in San Diego and grouped all of his tweets under the hashtag #sandiegofire.
Hashtags can be a single word or a phrase without spaces between the words. Numbers are allowed in hashtags, but special characters, such as $ or %, will not work.
Some sites limit the number of hashtags you can add to a single post, to avoid annoying other users. Twitter encourages its users to use no more than two. Instagram limits hashtags to 30, which only manic teens seem to use — steer clear.
If you want to tweet from an event or about a news story, make sure you use the official or most popular hashtag. At conferences, session hosts usually tell you the official hashtag to use.
If you're not using an official hashtag, check how the hashtag you have in mind has been used in the past, so you don't confuse other users. For instance, #tt can mean "Throwback Thursday," a popular tag on Instagram that signals a tradition of posting a photo from your childhood, or "trending topic" on Twitter.
If you want to increase the potential number of fellow users who could see your post, use a popular hashtag for your topic. (Several websites list the most popular hashtags on a given site, such as Instagram.) You may have better luck by refining your hashtag so you don't have as much competition, but you don't want one that nobody uses.
Sites such as Instagram and Tumblr make it easy to compare similar hashtags. Search for a basic term like "dinner." You will get a list of options like "#dinnerforone" and "dinnerwiththefam." Click on the hashtag to see how many posts have been tagged with the various options and then make your choice.
Get familiar with popular hashtags that are a sort of shorthand for insiders. For instance, Instagram's "iseefaces," means a photo of an object that looks like a face. Variations of this hashtag include tacking on a place, such as "iseefacesthailand."
When you see a #hashtag on a social media site, click it. You'll then see all of the posts with that hashtag without having to launch a search yourself.
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