What Does it Mean to 'Tag' Something or Someone?

An explanation of what tagging is on the web

A tag is a keyword or phrase used to group a collection of content together or to assign a piece of content to a specific person or entity.

So tagging means assigning a keyword or phrase that describes the theme of a group of articles, photos, videos, or other types of media files as a way to organize them and access them easily later. A tag can also be used to assign a piece of content to another user.

For example, if you published a couple of articles on a blog about dog training, but not all of your blog posts were about dog training, then you might assign just those couple of posts to the 'dog training' tag for easy organization. You could also assign multiple tags to any post, like using a 'beginner dog training' tag to distinguish from more advanced types of dog training posts.

If you uploaded a bunch of photos on Facebook of a wedding you attended, you could tag your friends' profiles to the specific photos where they appear. Tagging on social media is great for getting conversations going.

All sorts of web services use tagging — from social networks and blogging platforms to cloud-based productivity tools and team collaboration tools. In general, you can either tag pieces of content, or you can tag people (like their social profiles).

Illustration of several characters
 jayk7 / Getty Images

Let's take a look at the different ways you can use tagging online.

Tagging on Blogs

Given that WordPress is currently the most popular blogging platform on the web, we'll focus on how tagging works for this particular platform. WordPress generally has two major ways that users can organize their pages and posts — categories and tags.

Categories are used to group larger groups of content based on a general theme. Tags, on the other hand, allow users to get more specific, grouping content with multiple keywords and phrase tags in order to get super descriptive. 

Some WordPress users put tag clouds in the sidebars of their sites, which look like a collection of keywords and phrase links. Simply click on a tag, and you'll see all the posts and pages that were assigned to that tag.

Tagging on Social Networks

Tagging on social networks is extremely popular, and it's the best way to make your content more visible to the right people. Each platform has its own unique tagging style, yet they all follow the same general idea.

On Facebook, you can tag friends in photos or posts. Simply click the Tag photo option at the bottom of the photo to click a face and add a friend's name, which will send a notification to them that they've been tagged. You can also tag a friend's name in any post or comment section by typing the @ symbol followed by their name, which will trigger automatic friend suggestions for you to choose from.

On Instagram, you can pretty much do the same thing. Tagging posts, however, helps more users who aren't already connected to you find your content when they search for specific tags. All you have to do is type the # sign before a keyword or phrase in the caption of comments of a post to assign the tag to it.

Of course, when it comes to Twitter, everyone knows about hashtags. Like Instagram, you have to add that # symbol to the beginning of a keyword or phrase to tag it, which will help people follow the discussion you're in and see your tweets.

So, What's the Difference Between Tags and Hashtags?

Excellent question. They're both almost identical but have some subtle differences. Firstly, a hashtag always involves including a # symbol at the beginning and is usually only used for following social content and discussions on social media.

Tagging usually applies to people and blogging. For example, most social networks need you to type the @ symbol first to tag another user, and blogging platforms have sections of their own in their backend areas to add tags, which don't require typing a # symbol.

Tagging on Cloud-Based Tools

More cloud-based tools for productivity and collaboration have been jumping on the tagging bandwagon, offering ways for users to organize their content and get other users' attention.

Evernote, for example, allows you to add tags to your notes to keep them nice and organized. Most collaboration tools like Trello and Podio allow you to tag other users' names to easily interact with them.

So, all you really need to know is that tagging offers a convenient way to organize, find, and follow information — or alternatively interact with people. Every tag is a clickable link, which takes you either to the page where you can find the collection of information or the tagged person's profile.

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