The meaning of the Twitter hashtag

The # sign (widely known as the Twitter hashtag) is part of social media, but prior to July 1, 2009, it stood for nothing official if you had asked Twitter. These days, seeing a hashtag can indicate lots of things like real events, scheduled chats/online events, news/alerts, concepts, controversies, giveaways, etc.

Online marketers can score huge with trending hashtags. If a scheduled chat on Twitter becomes popular and influential, it can actually get sponsored independently! Yup, if you thought hashtags were pure fun and games, then you didn’t get the memo.

Anyone can create a hashtag, even on your first day using Twitter. What makes a hashtag even cooler is that it’s anything you want it to be. Another nice thing is a hashtag, just like a real tag found outside of Twitter, provides a convenient way for anyone using Twitter, whether an official user or a visitor, to simply click, thereby avoiding typing into the search bar.

Hashtags save spaces when you’re composing a tweet. This was more important when Twitter had a 140-character limit, but it’s still helpful to know

When writing a tweet, it saves precious spaces. The fast math formula that’s easy for you to remember is the total number of words you want to cluster together, then subtract the number 2 from that total. The resulting number is always the number of spaces you saved, 🙂 thanks to the # sign! Any Twitter user will tell you spaces are precious due to Twitter’s 140 character limit. Let’s look at this example: If you put the # sign before 6 words strung together (in other words, cluster them together with no spaces), then you save 4 spaces thanks to the # sign. If you put it in front of 2 words, you save nothing, but, you give people the courtesy of being able to click on your tag. String together 8 words with a # in front and you’ll save 6 spaces. 12 words equal 10 spaces saved.

Why is this formula always minus 2 and always perfect? Because the # eats up one space, and whatever appears after the final word of the hashtag is never “save eligible”; therefore the final word is moot/disregarded in the counting – So the formula always works. However, if you’re using a desktop site like, there’s no need to count. Twitter’s interface also counts your characters. Just sayin’: Cluster words selectively to save spaces.


The Twitter hashtag can be a temporary light/fun discussion or recurring discussion, such as #BackInJuniorHigh or #LoveHateRelationshipWith or it can reflect a real event, promo event/contest (normally you need to tweet with the hashtag in order to win), or local/national/world news such as #MWC2013 (This was a “real life” tablet and smartphone media event held in Spain in early 2013)

It’s also sometimes used when someone’s just too lazy to look up a company’s official Twitter account (preceded always by the @ sign), or perhaps in a tweet referring to someone who is deceased who obviously doesn’t have a Twitter account such as #MichaelJackson

Clicking on the hashtag lets you click a special link to see which one of your followers also used the same exact tag such as #diet (or any Twitter user, meaning they don’t need to be part of your following for this search action to work)  This kind of search can also be done without the # sign but of course you’ll need to manually type. In July 2009, Twitter began to hyperlink all hashtags to search results containing all recent posts mentioning either the hashtag or the standard spelling of those words if written in the same order. In 2010, highly trafficked hashtags became featured as official “Trending Topics” on Twitter.

So remember: the # sign makes a courteous, clickable tag

Hashtags are similar to those clickable tags at the bottom of hundreds of articles in websites such as, meaning the CMS type of tags which doesn’t have a # sign in front. Ultimately it’s a tag with a # (hash) sign, hence the name “hashtag”! 🙂 The # sign alone is not a tag or a hashtag. What makes it a tag are 1 or more words after it. Twitter knows you’re making a hashtag the moment it gets the # sign from your keyboard. It knows you’re done when you hit the spacebar. The Twitter hashtag is, in a nutshell, a courtesy to others, a grouping search method, a space-saving method and good for trend tracking. For more on hashtag marketing, see this article (4/26/2013) by Victoria Ipri on Creating Your Own Twitter Hashtag.

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