Edit: Check out the end of the post for an update regarding a third-part application that makes dealing with hashtags much easier.
Ever since Sarah (@sarahjoaustin) and I (@xgravity23) published our series on the True Beginner’s Guide to Twitter and the corresponding free eBook, I have been getting questions about Twitter. Some are easily answered in a tweet or quick email, but this one from @lorraR I thought deserved to be a blog post. If you have any questions about Twitter, feel free to DM me or send me an email at lam(at)lindenamueller(dot)com!
Question: How do I create a hashtag?
Well, technically, all you have to do is tweet it to create it. I usually do a Twitter search before initial use of a hashtag I plan to use over and over (like #09creowksp) to make sure no one else is using it.
You have to create an account before you can start defining hashtags on the Tagal.us site. Once you’ve set up your account, you can see if your desired tag is in use and define it or add your own definition (remember, words often have more than one definition–think “table” which can be a noun or a verb) or comment on a tag.
One drawback to Tagal.us and Hashtags.org: that information isn’t accessible to Twitter users who aren’t using those sites. For this reason alone, Sarah and I came up with the #define hashtag.
The first time you tweet with your new hashtag should be a tweet that begins with “#newHashtag #define”–even if you’ve defined your tweet elsewhere–so that if a user uses Twitter search to see if a hashtag is in use, they will still find a definition. (Hopefully. See below.) That way, they’ll know if that tag is the one they want, and you won’t run the risk of have your tag used for some unrelated event, idea, or purpose.
Twitter’s Much Touted Search is Broken?
I wrote the bulk of this post almost a month ago, and I let it fester because I could not explain why Twitter search and Hashtags.org can’t find my 20 some-odd posts from the 2009 8th Creolistics Workshop, which I taged with #09creowksp (here’s the tweet where I used #define to tell others what I that new hashtag would be referring to). You Ican find it at Tagal.us, but only because I defined it myself–it actually show any Twitter results, though (no surprise). I just went back through all my tweets and tagged the #09creowksp ones at Diigo so there is hard proof that they do indeed exist, despite what Twitter search says.
Just today I stumbled across Louis Gray complaining that Twitter’s much-touted real-time search is broken, and I felt relieved. I wasn’t crazy, but I have found yet another very broken part of Twitter, one that they are proud of, one that is at least part of the attraction from potential buyers like Google and others (including Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple). Why doesn’t it work as far (not-so-far??) back as April? I like Twitter, obviously, but this is, in my book, more serious than the recent @ reply debacle.
Thanks to Mike at WTHashtag (see comments below), I can tell you about another service that makes defining and searching hashtags from within Twitter. They offer many services similar to Tagal.us, but offer some sweet stuff on top, including a live-stream of top hashtags, a chart of who is using a hashtag most frequently, and a bot on Twitter, @wthashtag, who you can DM to find the definition of a hashtag (if it has been defined in their system).
They automatically track top trending hastags, so if you are creating your own, be sure to log in and define it before using it so that the system will track it for you (regardless of whether or not Twitter’s search will remember it!).