What are Twitter Hashtags for Anyway?

Twitter is starting to become more mainstream in the legal industry as a legitimate way to share information and communicate with others with similar interests.  Lawyers get nervous when it comes to tweeting, not knowing where to begin.  I always advise individuals and firms to take baby steps when learning to tweet. Start out slowly by selecting who to follow, retweeting others and tweeting interesting links that appeal to the audience you want to attract. I often find that people are amenable to trying these steps, but still find themselves mystified by the elusive hashtag (#).  What does it mean when words and phrases are preceded by hashtags (#)?  Here is a little primer.

Hashtags were created by the Twitter community with the purpose of creating larger, ongoing conversations on a similar topic. They connect current events and popular topics so that people can more easily find related content. Clicking on a hastag brings up a list of all the tweets that have used it—including tweets from users you don’t follow.

So, how do you create hashtags?  It is very simple because hashtags are simply text. They can be be used anywhere in a tweet– beginning, middle, or end. Select the keyword you want to focus on and place a pound sign (#) in front of it without any spaces.  (i.e.: #marketing NOT # marketing).

One other thing to know, hashtags allow you to communicate a message to those not actively searching for the keywords.  If the keyword you wish to highlight is commonly used in your industry, you should do a quick search on that hashtag and see what other conversations are happening around that hashtag.  You may be able to connect more effectively by replying or retweeting your comment in connection with the information you want to share.

Twitter can be intimidating to the new user.  However, you shouldn’t be afraid to try it out in small steps. Use the help section on Twitter and rely on experienced users to get you started.  Twitter is definitely part of the marketing mix for lawyers and other professional service providers. Have an open mind and give it a try.  You may find that you actually enjoy the community!