Yesterday, I posted about the value of online connection and what we are trying to do with our online networking accounts. Today, I want to follow up with a simple way of connecting. You can start this immediately if you are already on Twitter, or if you'd like to set up a Twitter account.
What is a Hashtag?
One of the things that makes Twitter so valuable is that it runs in real-time. That means that I can type and publish and update and you can read it immediately. This makes is extremely valuable for search--you can search within Twitter for posts about topics and events and receive information in real-time.
Going back to yesterday's post, if you are posting updates to Twitter during the sermon, others can read these updates in real-time. This means that other church members who may be on Twitter at the same time can read your updates and respond. It also means that others who read your Twitter updates but are not church members can see your updates about the sermon or worship service as you post!
This is where hashtags come in. A hashtag is, very simply, a way to create a search term within Twitter. For example, when you go to Google to search for something, you'll type in something like, "cheap plane tickets." That is your search term that you use at Google.
You can do this also at Twitter. Go to Twitter and search for "bible." It will return several results, based on when it finds the word "bible" in someone's update. However, a hashtag allows a poster to add the tag at the end of their post to mark that entire post for that search term. For example, when I post an update to Twitter about my sermon, I will include the hashtag #bible or #sermon. (Note that hashtags always use the pound "#" symbol ahead of the word.)
Why Use a Hashtag?
As I stated above, marking a post with a hashtag is a deliberate way of linking your post to a particular search term. Now, when you search Twitter for #bible instead of "bible," you will receive posts that posters have deliberately marked for that purpose. Rather than receiving feedback about someone deciding to buy a bible (search term "bible"), you will most likely receive information about bible studies, sermons, and information about the bible.
You can also use a hashtag to build a collection of posts around a topic. This is what we are working at doing for the Horton Road Church of Christ. We are using the hashtag, #hrcc, for church-related posts. For example, in this update I ask church members posting on Twitter to use that particular hashtag when they post about the church.
You can also search at Twitter for that hashtag, #hrcc, and find updates about the church that various church members have posted using that hashtag.
How to Use a Hashtag?
It's very simple to use the #hrcc hashtag. When you post a message to Twitter, simply use that tag somewhere in your message. For example, you might post this: "Really enjoyed worship service this morning. It's encouraging to be with other Christians. #hrcc" This would allow anyone searching that tag to read your message and begin interacting with you about the worship service.
You can also use this hashtag simply by searching for it at Twitter. You don't even need to have an account for this. You can simply go to Twitter.com, type #hrcc into the search box, and it will return the search results for that hashtag. You can then read what others are posting about the church and our activities, even if you don't have an account.
I encourage you to consider how these online networking services may be useful for you. If you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to talk with you about these services, or even help you with them.