Well, it looks like #. But it's more than just the "pound sign" (as we say in America). The hashtag is a way to follow specific topics and conversations on Twitter.
In fact, some hashtags, like #litchat and #blogchat, connect to scheduled conversations about a particular topic (in the first case, books and writing--in the second, blogging). You can even enter a special "chat room" that streams Tweets only for that hashtag.
Other hashtags are more topical in nature--an invitation to follow and contribute ideas surrounding a particular theme. This kind of hashtag could center around a book (for example, #HeLa, for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), a movie, a band, an icon, a hobby, a profession, an experience, a TV show and so on. An example of this would be #amwriting, which is a "writer roll call" connecting other scribes. You can even share what you're writing or your progress via #WIP, which means "work in progress".
Anyone can create a hashtag, and anyone can participate using one. I've created two Tarot-related hashtags, myself: #BITtarot (which invites Tarotists to connect a Tarot card with a particular memory, object, character, book, action, etc., based on my BIT Tarot Method) and #tarotREV (where we contribute our take on specific meanings for reversed Tarot cards). Even the generic #Tarot is often used by Tarotists (but it's often more spammy).
What's the point?, you may be wondering. Well, if you look at Tweets that use hashtags, you'll notice that they are highlighted for clicking. This means that you can click any hashtag and instantly be taken to a page which shows real-time Tweets of others using that particular hashtag.
This means you can follow, and contribute, to a particular topic whenever you happen to be online. Of course, if there's a scheduled chat, you may miss the live Tweets...but they'll be forever recorded in the corresponding hashtag transcript.
Here's another example: It's 4 AM my time, and I've posted the Tweet: 6 of WANDS, reversed: Losing a race, falling from pedestal, indifference towards praise. Your take? #tarotREV #Tarot
Now, chances are my American pals aren't online at this time...but the very cool thing is that my UK, Aussie and other pals around the world ARE! So they can contribute their insights when they're up and about. My American Twitter Tarot friends can contribute THEIR take when they awake and log on...and read what others have posted about a card by clicking on #tarotREV.
See how cool that is? (And despite how the hashtags look, they are not case-sensitive. This means #TAROTREV, #TAROTrev and #tarotREV will all refer to the same stream when used or clicked.)
Thus, hashtags can be a teaching tool, news disseminator, water cooler, slumber party, book sneeze, agony aunt, sympathy circle, prayer chain--you get the idea.
But hashtags have one more use: snark. Or, "aren't I clever" asides. Piers Morgan does this magnificently, as does author Joe Hill and actor George Takei. For example, I may Tweet: "If I had a dollar for every self-pubbed author who swore her MS was 'professionally edited'..." #lookoutbillgates
When many use the same hashtag, that can lead to "trending", which means interested parties will likely check out WHY a particular hashtag is popular. This is often how individuals find out when a celebrity has gotten arrested, divorced or murdered: you see a certain name, wonder why it's trending (especially if it's not a name that's ALWAYS in the limelight), click on the hashtag--and get the scoop.
So now you know what those tic-tac-toe symbols mean...and how they can connect you with information, books and like-minded folks.
-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Top/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse(Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot(Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)