What’s a hashtag used for and how can it help me with genealogy? That’s a question I am often asked when giving my social media presentation. That silly little pound sign (#) really does mean something. Here are three new ways to use hashtags for genealogy and family history you must try!
It was Twitter who introduced the hashtag in the summer of 2009. By putting the pound symbol in front of a word of phrase, you could hyperlink associated material. You were also simultaneously caching, or storing, like material into one virtual location.
Hashtags are made with keywords and a pound sign in front. #Genealogy, #familyhistory, #funnykitten, and the list goes on..and on…and on! Genealogists are learning the power of hashtags in some amazing ways and we’re going to share three of them with you now.
Hashtags for Genealogy to Organize & Share Event Photos
Hashtags can help when sharing on social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If I wanted to share the pictures from a recent family reunion on Instagram, I would add a hashtag to each photo I uploaded…maybe something like #ColeFamilyReunion2016. Then, a person need only search #ColeFamilyReunion2016 on Instagram to have all the pictures pop-up.
Now, imagine everyone at the family reunion doing the same thing. Snapping pictures and uploading to Instagram with the same hashtag. At the end of the event, you will have a wonderful collection of family photos already archived!
The same thing can be done on Facebook. Pick a hashtag and let your family know to use it when they upload any images from the reunion to Facebook. Then, from Facebook, search for the hashtag like you would a person. All the photos that were uploaded with that hashtag will come right up.
[The Privacy Issue: If you are not “friends” or you do not “follow” a person in your family that has their privacy settings for “friends only,” you will not be able to see their hashtagged items. If the family member has a “public” privacy setting on, then anyone can see those images.]
You may notice some other family is using the same hashtag. Sadly, there is no way to stop that. There is no such thing as legally owning a hashtag, so you really need to be unique when choosing one.
At our recent family portrait day, we used the hashtag #BowsersTakeHayner. We are the Bowser family and we were having our pictures taken at the Hayner Cultural Center. We used that hashtag for both Facebook and Instagram.
All my sisters and our teens were snapping behind-the-scenes videos and pictures that were then uploaded using that hashtag. So fun!
If you are still concerned about the hashtag you have chosen, and whether it is unique enough, there are websites online to help you determine if a hashtag is already being used. Hashtag.org is one of these websites. Here, you can enter in a hashtag you are interested in to see how many people have used it in the last 24 hours.
Using Hashtags to Follow a Genealogy Event
Now that you have the basics of hashtags, prepare to take it to the next level! Hashtags are now being used to “follow” (in real time) an event like RootsTech or the National Genealogical Society Annual Conference. Let me explain.
Each year at RootsTech, people are twittering away on Twitter (and other social media outlets) and using #RootsTech on everything they post. They hear a cool quote in a lecture…they put it out there with #RootsTech. They snapped a picture with their favorite genealogy mentor…they put it out there with #RootsTech in the description or comment. Because of this, even those who aren’t at the event can follow along as if they were.
Brace yourself though…with thousands of people tweeting and posting, it gets a little crazy.
The next big national genealogy event coming up is the National Genealogical Society Annual Conference on May 10th-13th. Last year, the hashtag used was #NGS2016GEN. It’s just a guess, but this year’s hashtag might be #NGS2017GEN!
Using Hashtags to Join a Twitter Chat
We’ve talked about Instagram and Facebook, and just touched on Twitter. Twitter is a social media tool that is sort of like instant messaging. At least, that is how I use it. People are tweeting all day long about this and that and you are seeing these little news blurbs on your Twitter feed, as they happen.
Today, genealogists have taken to Twitter for chat sessions. They will have a designated time and day chosen to “meet.” Then, they use a specific hashtag to follow each other and communicate. One of my favorites is #genchat hosted by Jen Baldwin.
Genchat happens every other Friday evening at 9pm CST. Genealogists from around the world jump on Twitter for a fast-paced, one hour conversation about a genealogy topic. In fact, tonight (April 14th, 2017) is a Q & A on resources at the Library and Archives Canada.
If you have not participated in a Twitter Party or Tweet Chat before, read through this post by Janet Fouts: How To Participate in a Tweet Chat or Getting Started: A Guide for Beginners by tweeparties. It is really helpful to know what you are doing before you jump on. Then, follow @_genchat on Twitter. Get on Twitter tonight at 9pm CST and get ready to tweet your little heart out.
The people at #genchat are of all levels and areas of expertise. They share their knowledge, and occasionally, their sense of humor! I think you will like it, even if you only “watch” from the sidelines.
There are many genealogy chats happening on Twitter. In fact, I just participated in a Thursday evening chat session for #legacychat sponsored by The Legacy Recorder. In this chat session, you focus on answering personal history questions to help encourage and inspire you to tell your stories. It’s a little more slow paced, which was really refreshing.
I hope you have learned at least one new way to use hashtags for genealogy. And, to learn even more about genealogy and family history, read: