Image representing AOL as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Twitter hashtags are a great way to catagorize your posts, imply sarcasm and simplify. But how do you use them to maximize your impact?

There are three types of hashtags (#) on twitter: Social, News Stream and Orphans (hat tip to Rob @questional for the last one).

Social:

These are hashtags that are used for discussions and chat. My favorite is #pubwrite and I have a #pubwrite stream running on my tweet deck. Throughout the day people will include the #pubwrite tag in posts and others will reply with the #pubwrite tag. Its like an old AOL chatroom on twitter without the need to @ every individual #pubwrite savvy user. When you include a social tag you are saying, “This comment is directed at other tweeps using the same social tag.”

News Stream: This is a hashtag that usually moves too quick to engender conversation and is usually reserved for news and culture niches. #antisec is a good example. When LulzSec made the “Antisecurity” movement popular all articles, posts and information about it generally funneled through the #antisec hash tag. When you use a News Stream hashtag you’re usually giving links, information or commentary about that news item. If your content is good or your commentary relevant you may get a retweet or comments on the link you posted.

Orphans: These are hashtags that people probably don’t have a stream set up to follow and are usually never used again. Most of the time they offer context or humor on the preceeding posts. An example would be: Off to the DMV #seeyounextcentury. No one is looking for the #seeyounextcentury hashtag and no community around it exists, but it does offer a little humor and explains the users feelings about going to the DMV.

Do not cross the streams, guys- if you do you’ll make yourself an outsider very quick. Do not treat Social streams as News Streams and don’t expect a Social aspect to rise in a News Stream. And never think that your Orphans are anything but that.

How do you find social streams? Ask your friends what a good #hashtag for whatever topic your interested is. “Are there any good Hash-Chats for Marketing? Where can I find a good hashtag for journalists to talk in?” For news streams? Just watch your stream, they’ll pop up if you’ve properly developed your community to reflect your interests and work life! If you don’t see useful hashtags on your stream then think about adding different users or using list filters to seperate your professional or personal contacts so you can watch closer.

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