If you’ve seen the last couple of Educast posts and videos about Vine and Instagram, you may have noticed that we’ve been trying to expand the conversation a little bit and really think about the context in which these sorts of creative social media tools function. We’ve been looking at similarities and differences amongst social media platforms with the goal of being more critical and thoughtful users.
Today, we’re going to look at Hashtags and how they function and have developed across several different social media platforms and services and their sometimes controversial status within digital culture.
Hashtags are an important part of the metadata connected to social media content. In its most basic sense, the hashtag is a tool for tagging content related to a particular subject. By adding the number sign before a word or phrase, you tag your content with that word or phrase. For example, I might write a microblog post describing my sister’s withering vegetable garden and include the hashtag "#drought." If I posted this microblog on Twitter, the hashtag would allow Twitter to easily group my post with any other post that is also tagged with the word ‘drought.’ This would make it easy for people who are interested in the subject of drought to see any and all tweets related to that subject. Hashtags therefore become a crucial way in which social media streams are organized and explored and for users who are not otherwise connected to find each other's content based on shared interests. When you think about the usual structure of your social network and social media output, it is often based around social relationships. This could then limit the amounts and kinds of information that you experience within that network. Hashtags make it easy to follow topics in addition to people, and to possibly expand your social network.
To learn more about hashtags and to see them in action across different platforms, checkout the video below.