What's the difference between a hashtag and a handle

Okay, I have not written a musical called Hashtags and Handles - yet. But when I do, the opening number would be called "Come on and Follow Me" with a mass of truckers tweeting while doing the grapevine and singing in five part harmony. Note: seriously, please don't steal this idea. I may still write this musical.

That said, I've worked with a few different clients in the past month alone who were not clear on what a hashtag is and they were throwing it around incorrectly and causing confusion - mostly for themselves. So here's a very basic explanation of what a hashtag is, what a handle is, and how you use them.

@ = Handle

Isn't it fun to talk about handles? It's like we're truckers back in the day. Truckers had CB radios and handles to identify themselves to one another since they may never actually meet in person. On Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat you also have handles to identify yourself. Some people choose handles that make sense with their actual names (my Twitter is @annieschiff, for example), others get more playful (on Snapchat I know someone with an account that is just a letter and a flag emoji). Either way, people will use your handle to reach you. You will use your handle to reach out. Just like a CB radio.

If I were telling people how they could find me on Instagram, I'd say,

"Oh yeah. I'm on Instagram. My company's handle is at Downstage Media."

And if I were writing it in an email, I'd say,

"Oh yeah. I'm on Instagram. My company's handle is @DownstageMedia."

# = Hashtag

I'm not sure why some punctuation has multiple names while others have none (I'm looking at you "<" and ">"). But what was known as the number sign and then the pound sign has taken on a new name as the hashtag. Hashtags have the most relevance on Instagram and Twitter. Imagine the Internet as a file cabinet. If you were to print out your tweet and put it in a file folder, the hashtag would be how you'd label the folder. For example, I could tweet:

"Perfect is the enemy of the good." #quotes #perfectionism #wordstoliveby #NotSureWhoSaidIt

This way, if someone is searching for tweets with quotes or tweets about perfectionism or even words to live by, my tweet would be in the pile along with all of the other tweets with that same hashtag.

Hashtags are useful so that when you are looking to connect with people - maybe lovers of Gilbert and Sullivan - you could search #gilbertandsullivan on Instagram and find nearly 9000 posts about that very subject. On the flip side, if you're doing Pirates of Penzance, you would want to include #gilbertandsullivan in the captions of your photos so people poor wandering ones could find your pictures easier.


Just like with your email address or website, capitalization doesn't matter. Although it may make the text easier to read.

For example, seeing this hashtag #maybenever could look like "May ben ever." But typing #MaybeNever would be clearer to read. Either way, though, if you used that hashtag and people searched for it your posts would still be included in the list no matter how you capitalized it.

Also, keep in mind that hashtags can't have punctuation. If you put in punctuation - like to say #I'msorrynotsorry - the search engines would see it as #I. So keep your tags punctuation-free. 

#nopunctuation > #punctuation-free

Come to think of it, no wonder younger generations struggle with capitalization and punctuation!

See Hashtags and Handles today!

If you'd like to see hashtags in action, you can follow the handle @DownstageMedia on Instagram. 

And if there is something in particular you took from this post, send me a tweet @annieschiff using the hashtag #HashtagsAndHandlesTheMusical.