If you haven’t spotted a hashtag on social media, where have you been? If you can believe it, the humble hashtag has been around for 10 years this year. The hashtag, a label used for helping others find content on a certain topic on social media, became famous on Twitter, but can now be used on many platforms and social media such as Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. The hashtag is a symbol placed in front of a word to group a post with other posts which can be easily located by searching a specific hashtag. The hashtag, however, was not created by Twitter, but was first used by Chris Messina, a social technology expert, in 2007. The hashtag that started it all was posted by Messina in August 2007 – #barcamp. In 2009, hashtags were referred to as “Twitter groupings”, and according to Hootsuite, the hashtag was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2010 and in 2014 was added to the scrabble dictionary.
The hashtag symbol had a few applications before it became prominently known as a ‘hashtag’. Some of these include placing the hashtag after a number to indicate the total pounds in weight, as well as in front of a number to indicate ‘number’, which is still in use today. The use of the hashtag today has all but replaced the previous meaning of the symbol. The most used hashtag to date, according to metro.co.uk, is a hashtag used on Twitter, of course. The hashtag, #FF, or Follow Friday, has been mentioned 539 million times.
The hashtag is used on social media to group thoughts together, to create a common thread or idea for people to follow. To find out what the audience at large has to say about a certain topic, simply click on the hashtag. Users have taken this further and utilise hashtags without the intention of joining a larger dialogue, but rather to condense their overall idea into one clear thought, such as #AgencyLife.
As with most trends, the hashtag has made its way into colloquial language, where people will say a hashtag phrase out loud in an ironic way, such as “hashtag blessed.”
Hashtags are also a nifty marketing tool used by brands to create an identity on social media platforms. These should be short and sweet and easy to search for. This can be applied to either the brand identity at large (for example, Kit Kat using the hashtag #HaveABreak) or a unique hashtag for a specific campaign (Kit Kat using the hashtag #MyBreak for a competition). The hashtag can be used to measure user’s engagement to compile quantifiable data on how effective the campaign has been on social media. Further to this, audiences using the hashtag connects the brand to interesting, authentic user-generated content. Brands jumping on to trending hashtags and incorporating them into their content makes for a relevant, engaging brand.
Love them or hate them, hashtags are here to stay. So if you can’t beat them, join them #JustSaying.