Anyone who uses Twitter is familiar with the hashtag. Hashtags came about as a simple way to categorize messages on Twitter by using a pound sign (#) to mark particular topics or terms as notable; Twitter then groups all tweets that use the same hashtag. With the 140-character limit that Twitter imposes, hashtags are a useful tool to help your tweets end up in the right categories; they also help you search for other tweets with the same theme. When you’re ready to create your own hashtag, the process is simple.
Your Hashtag’s Meaning
Before you create your own hashtag, think about why you want to create it. Are you trying to start a new conversation about a topic you like? Are you trying to raise awareness for a cause you care about? Whatever you want your hashtag to mean, try to keep it as specific as possible. A hashtag like “#travel” is extremely vague and won't stand out, but the hashtag “#daytonasummer2014” is much more specific and will be more likely to attract the attention of others who share your interest.
Is It Already Out There?
If your goal is to create a unique hashtag, you'll have to make sure someone else didn't already think of it first. To make sure your concept is a new one, search on Twitter for your hashtag. If it comes up, then it’s already in use; you can still use it to become part of the conversation and see what other people have already tweeted about that topic, but if you want to create a hashtag that's all your own, you’ll have to keep trying new ideas until you no longer find a match on Twitter.
Avoid Negative Potential
Since hashtags are made up of one or more words all together with no spaces, they can sometimes be misread. Take a good look at your hashtag to see if it could perhaps be interpreted in a way that you might not have realized. In one infamous example, when singer Susan Boyle launched a new album and tried to generate enthusiasm for it, her team chose the hashtag “#susanalbumparty.” Some people read the letters in a way that the album promoters definitely did not intend, forcing them to quickly change the hashtag to “#SusanBoylesAlbumParty,” but the damage was done. Read your hashtag carefully and think of the ways it could be mistaken before you commit to it.
Promoting Your Hashtag
When you’re ready to launch your hashtag, use it in a tweet (remember, no spaces between the words in a hashtag), then spread the word among your followers and friends. You can start by explaining what the tag means and suggesting that others use it, but don’t constantly bombard people with it as they might lose interest or become bored with your hashtag's overuse. Next, you can register your hashtag on a site like Twubs (full link in Resources) to organize and track the conversations that include your hashtag. Finally, you can use a hashtag alert tool if you want to be notified when someone uses your hashtag; Twilert and Hashtags.org are two such tools (full links in Resources), but you can also simply search for your hashtag on Twitter to see how it’s being used by others.
Erica Kasper has been a professional writer and editor since 1999. Based in Jacksonville, Fla., she has written and edited educational, marketing and web copy for nonprofit organizations, technology companies and online marketing firms. She has a Bachelor's degree in journalism (honors) and psychology from Washington and Lee University.