What is an octothorpe and why should you care?

And now for your starter for ten.

What is an octothorpe?

The following definition comes from the World Wide Words website

Octothorpe is just one of a plethora of names for the symbol # In the US it’s often called the pound key, because it has long been used to mark numbers related to weight, or for similar reasons the number sign, which is also one of its internationally agreed names. Elsewhere it is commonly called hash, a term dating from the 1970s that may have been a popular misunderstanding of hatch.

So now you know if this question ever comes up in a pub quiz!

But more immediately why should you care about octothorpes or in Twitter parlance, hashtags?

A hashtag is a keyword marked by the # symbol in front of it. When you click on the hashtag it is hyperlinked to all other tweets using that tag, so it is a handy way to categorize tags and connect with others interested in the same topic.

Here is one on my own Twitter timeline for #bcsm (breast cancer social media) which represents an ongoing conversation on Twitter within the breast cancer community.Twitter really comes into its own when it draws interested parties together in a real-time virtual conversation this way and hashtags facilitate the conversation.

I also use hashtags to curate an event, either by building a story on storify (more about that in an upcoming post) or to look back after the event on what people have been tweeting. It is also  a useful tool during the event to see who is there that you might like to network with – simply search the hashtags to see who is present and tweeting from the event. This has worked very well for me at several recent events. Furthermore if I can’t attend an event in person, I can follow along on the conversation through the hashtags. It is also a great way to connect on and off line attendees and create a buzz around your event offline.

This is just a simple overview of hashtags for Twitter newbies, and I hope it has demystified the octothorpe for you. So now, get tweeting and don’t forget those hashtags – who knows you may even start to trend if enough people tweet with your tags.

Happy Tweeting!

11 thoughts on “What is an octothorpe and why should you care?

  1. Good post for newbies.I didn’t really get the whole hashtag thing until now..but I can really see its potential after reading this.

  2. Love this! I’ve been blundering my way though Twitter over the past few months and starting to use hashtags without much understanding of why. But now I get it!

  3. paper.li picks up on hashtags to create its “papers” so there is an advantage to be had in using hashtags for this reason too.

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