Tweets, retweets, trending, hashtags. The new vocabulary of Twitter is a vast and confusing one, something that anyone over the age of 18 might find impossible to decipher. As a member of generation Y, it even took me a few weeks of Tweeting to really understand the power of Twitter. Although my tweets might not go beyond what I had for lunch or how slow the person in front of me is driving, trends are still a valuable research tool when looking for information, opinions and news about a topic, world event or organization.

But what is a trend? And what are hashtags? And what does it all mean? They are complex concepts that can actually help professionals gauge reactions to their organization, conduct research and see what the hottest new trends are in a very simple way.

Trends are a searchable term or group of words which enable Twitter users to see what other users are saying about a topic. When trending a phrase, there should be no spaces between individual words and the word or cluster should start with a hashtag.

A hashtag is the pound (#) symbol placed before a word or group of words in a “tweet” on Twitter. The hashtag can appear anywhere within the 140 characters of the tweet. Basically, placing a hashtag before a word or group of words highlights that grouping as a “trend”.  Trends become searchable terms, and when searched, all posts from users that are “trending” a certain word or group of words (ie, a topic) will be aggregated onto one page.

The groupings of words can range from something as simple and general as #Friday or #thingsilike to more specific things such as a company name or sport. For example, if you work for Pepsi, you could search #pepsi and all posts from users that have created a tweet including #pepsi will show up.  If you are an alum of the University of Maryland, you could search #UMD to keep tabs on your alma mater. Redskins fan, search #Redskins. This enables anyone interested in a topic, or an employee from an organization, to keep tabs on what anyone and everyone is saying about a topic or company.

Multiple hashtags can also be used within a Tweet. A basic example would be: “I want a #HondaAccord for #Christmas…#onmymind.” or “Great day at the Outer Banks! #OBX #summertime”. And if you see these hashtags go by in your tweetstream, Twitter will automatically hyperlink them to a page that displays all of the other tweets that contain that same hashtag.

So try it – go on Twitter and search for your organization, favorite sports team, current event or hobby. Or, if you need a job, just search #job. But remember—hashtag first and no spaces! And for help with social media and digital marketing, see what The Sutter Group can do for you by clicking here.