When I speak with educators about the power of hashtags in social media, I get four questions.
1. How do I figure out which hashtag to use and set it up?
2. How do I know what people are saying?
3. How do I know what hashtag people are using if I want to find conversations about an area of interest?
4. How do I know who is using the hashtag?
There's a few great sites to help you answer these questions. They are Tagboard, Hashtagify.me, TOPSY, and Twitter. Let's take a look and how to use these platforms to most effectively answer these questions.
How to figure out and set up a hashtag
Setting a hashtag up is easy. Just type it into the search of your chosen social media and see if anyone is using it. If not, start using it. If they are, modify it in some way while keeping it short.
Here's an example.
In this screenshot you see I did a search for #PS10. While there were some Tweets about the school #PS10, many others were not. As I looked through the Tweets I found PS10 is also used for Police Station 10 and Postal Service 10. Since it was already used for other things, rather than use #PS10 as the hashtag for this school, they set up a few other content specific hashtags. #PS10BK for general Tweets and #PS10SW for Tweets about student work.
To set it up, all you do is start using it and tell others to do the same. Post it around your school. Use it in your email signature and business cards. Once the buzz gets going your hashtag is formed.
How to know what people are saying
People are using your hashtag in Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more. But how do you know what they're saying? One way is to do a search in each platform. A better way is to use Tagboard which aggregates hashtags from a variety of mediums.
Here is what it looks like.
You simply search the hashtag and then you can look at hashtags used by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Vine, or Flickr. Or you can click one social media icon and look just at posts from that platform.
How to find the hashtag people are using?
You are interested in a subject, but you don’t know what hashtag people are using. No problem. Use Hashtagify.me. Say you were interested in the “flipped classroom.” Type that term into Hashtagify.me and see what happens.
When you do, you see that #flippedclassroom has a popularity of 34.1. What is more popular is #flipclass with a popularity of 45.6.
Time to compare the two hashtags using TOPSY.
When you do, you have confirmation. Flipclass is the more popular hashtag to use when looking to learn and connect on the topic of the flipped classroom.
How to know who is using the hashtag.
You can use sites mentioned here like TOPSY or Hashtagify.me, but the best way to find people using a hashtag is on Twitter. Simply search for the hashtag, then select "People." When you do, you will see the top people using the hashtag which is great.
What is better is you can search just people in your area by selecting "near you." Now, not only do you have an online network, but you can also connect to others who are geographically positioned for face-to-face encounters.
These tools should have you on the path to building a strong learning network in no time. Have more questions? Share them in the comments.
Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.
Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.