The term hashtag is made up of the two words hash and tag. A hashtag stands for a double cross in social media channels such as Twitter, which users place in front of a specific term or string of characters. Hashtags, for example in tweets, are used to gather information on a topic.

By placing hashtags in front of keywords, social media users pick up on topics that concern them. Users can create hashtags themselves from terms or strings, or use existing hashtags. Hashtags cannot contain spaces, punctuation or special characters.

All posts on a topic that are tagged with the corresponding hashtag are played out collectively on social networks. If you click on a hashtag, all posts on that topic appear. Hashtags can be used to find information and track topics. In addition, frequently used hashtags can be used to identify trends. Hashtags originally established themselves in social media on the microblogging service Twitter.

Many users use a specific hashtag to pick up on current topics in social media. For example, the organization Pinkstinks.de recently introduced the hashtag #wasichlernte to draw attention to gender stereotypes. And shortly after the British Brexit referendum, the regret hashtag #bregret made the rounds on the microblogging service Twitter.

Existing hashtags are also often picked up and commented on by the community. For example, when the hashtag #IchwaehleAfd was on the German Twitter trends, many Twitter users decided without further ado to misappropriate it with ironic and humorous tweets.

Hashtags on Twitter, Instagram & Co.

Twitter introduced hashtags back in 2007. Twitter users can use them to tag their tweets. Hashtags usually appear at the end of a tweet, but they can also appear within the text of a tweet. Hashtags on Twitter are often also used on other social media channels and blogs.

One of the most used hashtags in Twitter’s history so far was #JeSuisCharlie.
This came about as a result of the attack on the editorial offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Twitter lists hashtags and topics that users are currently tweeting about the most in the account under the Trends tab. The tab shows at a glance which topics are currently being discussed the most on Twitter. The trends can be filtered by region. They are also further subdivided into Top Tweets (tweets with the most interactions), Live Tweets (in real time) and other options such as photos and videos.

Current trends and hashtags on Twitter are often also used by media for research and picked up in their reporting. This is because many journalists use social media to monitor media and interact with their target audience. According to a recent study by Cision, Facebook and Twitter in particular are used heavily by journalists for professional purposes. The hashtag #Aufschrei, which was created on Twitter by female users in the context of the sexism debate, was also used by many media and even won the Grimme Online Award for it in 2013. The jury justified the award with the great echo of a discussion initiated in social media in traditional media and politics.

Hashtags are also often used for marketing, so that users can find companies or services for certain terms. For example, many events have hashtags to display all posts about the event collectively.

Many TV shows also have their own hashtags. Often, live tweets are posted during the broadcast. For example, users discuss the current Tatort on Twitter under #tatort sonntags.

In addition to Twitter, hashtags can also be used on other social networks, including Instagram, Facebook and Google+. Here, too, hashtags serve to aggregate content on a topic and make it easier to find. Facebook introduced hashtags in 2013.

Hashtags are particularly popular in Instagram, the photo app that belongs to Facebook. Instagram users very often tag pictures and videos with hashtags, also to attract new followers to their own account. Popular hashtags on Instagram include #instagood and #happy.

Legal aspects: Hashtags and data protection

Since more and more hashtags are being used on the social web, questions about hashtags in connection with copyrights and data protection are increasingly arising on the part of companies. The main issue here is the commercial use of hashtags.

Depending on the social network, the use of hashtags in competitions is permitted. However, this can cause problems in terms of data protection, for example if the names of the winners are to be mentioned publicly. Also, when it comes to naming rights or trademark rights, advertising in hashtags can bring legal problems.

And if users use hashtags with the company name or a brand, companies are not allowed to advertise with them without their consent. Therefore, companies should protect themselves legally when using hashtags commercially.

Hashtags are now widely used on social networks such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Even the Duden spelling dictionary has now included the term hashtag.

Individuals and companies mark their posts with hashtags in order to contribute content to certain topics and be associated with them at the same time. Marking terms and strings with a hashtag makes it easier to search for specific topics on social media.

The most used hashtags on Twitter are displayed in the Twitter account under the Trends tab. This allows topics to be analyzed and emerging trends to be identified. Some hashtags spread virally on the social web and in blogs. Hashtags are also often picked up by traditional media and used for research and reporting.


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