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Have you seen these little # symbols floating around your Twitter stream and wondered what they are or why they are there?

When I first joined Twitter there were about five people using it so I abandoned it for a long time, when I came back there were a bunch of new things that I had to figure out, fast. And hashtags were one of them.

A hashtag is, quite simply, a way of organising a Twitter chat in such a way that you can see what everybody is saying about a particular subject – whether you are following them or not. There are a lot of hashtags out there so before you plan to create your own, or join in the fun, visit to find out what the trending tags are, or to look up the meaning of a specific tag.

You can create your own tags, use existing ones, or use them to stay on top of trending news and topics. They are an excellent source of new people to follow, a way of ensuring that you are on top of the latest news, and of forming a loyal following if you use them wisely.

To use your own hashtags there are several rules. Avoid using more than two or three in one tweet, ensure that they are memorable and that they haven’t already been allocated, and make sure the content of your tweet is relevant to the tag.

If you’d like to find people who are influential in your industry or worth following, check out the hashtags of your subject area and see who is on there. It does take time but it is well worth it. You can then add them to your lists as you go so you can follow their tweets easily.

I’ll be going into more detail about lists next week and I’ll talk you through how you can manage and create them easily.

Hashtags are a great conversation starter too, you can use them to generate followers as people start to pay attention to your tweets and enjoy what you’re saying.

They are brilliant tools for businesses as you can use them cleverly to reach the right people at the right time.

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