In a recent comment on An Introduction to Twitter Hashtags, Wild Apricot reader 88keyman came through with a really great question:
Suppose I’m writing on a topic concerning Iran. If I
include the hashtag #Iran, how does that differ from merely using the
word Iran in my Tweet? Wouldn’t both come up equally in a search of the
Actually, each of these search terms will produce slightly different results. A Twitter Search on #iran will include all mentions of iran, but not vice versa.
Tracking the hashtag #iran, rather than simply the name of
the country, means you are somewhat more likely to find people who are
actively engaged in discussing those current events. A search on Iran or iran (it’s not case sensitive), on the other hand, will include all mentions of the word, for whatever reason it occurs.
By way of illustration, check the search results for updates that include Iran but exclude #iran
to get a sense of how the hashtag might refine your search. By
searching for the word instead of the hashtag, you’d include a wide
range of tweets in your results — like these examples, from earlier
- antiatom Iran: Atomkraftwerk Buschehr soll bis Jahresende Betrieb aufnehmen: Das mit russischer Hilfe gebaute iranische A.. http://bit.ly/XFWhU
- The_MasterMind_ can any one answer this? Which river flowed into the Persian gulf after forming part of the border between Iraq and Iran
- sueela @xoSophie is iran election ever not trending?!
You can exclude off-topic tweets to a large extent by searching for
a specific hashtag rather than a generic term, clearly. Hashtags do seem to perform most effectively when they are created
around a specific event (real or virtual) — #iranelection, #ASAE09,
#blogchat, and so on. But whether it's better to
use a hashtag that is also a word, or to use the word itself in your
search, will depend in part on how you want to refine the search
Because Iran is a very broad topic with a high volume of
tweets, you may want to further refine your search with the usual
Boolean search operators (AND, OR, a minus sign to exclude certain terms, and so on), or try the detailed search form on the Advanced Twitter Search page.
Of course, searching only for a hashtag, or further refining your search, means that you’ll also run the
risk of missing some interesting and insightful tweets from those who
simply don’t use hashtags or fit the search criteria. I recommend setting up a variety of test searches with both the
word and the hashtag, and comparing the results to see which will
better suit your specific needs. 88keyman, I hope this helps to clear up the hashtags search issue for you — and thanks for bringing up a question that I’m sure many others have shared!