Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that nearly every other television program lately has something in the bottom corner with a pound (#) sign followed by a word or phrase (i.e. #chicago). What is going on with all these pound signs already? Many of you might know that it has something to do with social media – specifically Facebook or Twitter. But the bigger question is: What does it mean?

In this new media world, a pound sign followed by words is called a hashtag. It was developed organically on the social networking site Twitter as a way to categorize tweets. Now it is being used on other sites like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Simply put, it is an easy way to start or join a conversation with others surrounding a specific topic of interest.

So what exactly does it mean when newscasters say something is trending on Twitter or other social media channels? This means that there is currently a high frequency of social media posts about a topic, such as #ChicagoBears. In other words, a lot of people are talking about the Chicago Bears on Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites.

This hashtag “tool” has become important to newscasters because it provides insight into mind of the general public. It has also proven to be a great way for folks to interact with – and sometimes even become part of – the news by expressing thoughts, opinions or new information. Hashtags also allow users of these social media sites to follow up-to-the-minute news about a specific topic. For example, during the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this year, many folks were following various hashtags to get the latest information about the bombings. Sometimes that information can be obtained faster than the news can report it.

When you see a hashtag at the bottom corner of your TV screen, it is inviting you to join a conversation about that program or topic on Twitter. Let’s say you are watching Parenthood on NBC and you see #Parenthood on the screen. If you are on Twitter, you could simply search that hashtag and you would find all sorts of people commenting about what is happening on the show as it is happening. You can weigh in with your own opinions or simply read what others are saying.

Here’s another way to use hashtags. Imagine your granddaughter has a Twitter account. You both enjoy a nice fall day at The Chicago Botanic Garden. Let’s say she takes a picture of a flower and posts it on Twitter with the hashtag #ChicagoBotanicGarden. This means that anyone can search Chicago Botanic Garden on Twitter and they will see her picture along with other posts about the Chicago Botanic Garden.

So there you go – hashtags (hopefully) explained. Now you can decide if you’d like to join a conversation or start your own. Or, you can simply opt to listen to what others are saying and leave the all the hashtagging to them.

Information taken from:  http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/social-tv-study_b21423


Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education
Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living