The Power of the Hashtag

Who knew that one simple symbol could have so much power? Years ago, no one would've even thought about using the # in front of a single word on social media or elsewhere. Today, this global symbol has the power to link unique communities together by using only a single word or phrase. 

#History

                                                                                                                    Hi-res photo (credit: Kat Borlongan)

Let's talk History! Who doesn't love to hear about how something so small turned into such a global craze?  

So how did the pound sign become a hashtag? It all started when a man named Chris Messina decided to send out a tweet back on August 23, 2007 suggesting the hashtag as a way in which groups on Twitter could connect with each other.

Below is the exact tweet:    

  • Christopher Reaves Messina was born on January 7, 1981. 
  • Chris graduated in 2003 from Carnegie Mellon University with a BA in Communication Design. 
  • In 2004, Messina, as a volunteer for the Spread Firefox campaign, designed the 2004 Firefox advent which appeared in The New York Times on December 16, 2004.
  • In 2008, Chris won a Google O'Reilly Open Source Award for Best Community Amplifier for Microformats, BarCamp, and Spread Firefox. 
  • As an Open Source Advocate, Messina was employed at identity company Vidoop. Before this, he was the co-founder of the marketing agency Citizen  Agency. Chris has also worked at Google as an Open Web Advocate, where he later left to join startup NeonMob. (dates are ambiguous
  • In 2016-2017, he lead the Developer Experience team at Uber. Here, he enforced the terms and conditions of Uber's proprietery APIs.
  • In Feburary of 2018, Messina launched Molley, an AMA-website. This website was designed to answer questions using a person's social media posts. 

Not everyone was 100% convinced about Chris's idea and he had to fight for his hashtag plan to get accepted along with needing to find ways to convince others of its potential benefits.  

In one of Chris's Blog Posts, Chris stated this:  

"Some people just don't like how they look. Still others feel that they encumber a simple communication system that should do one thing and one thing well, secondary uses be damned if they don't blend with how the system is generally used."

He later told GigaOM

"In the beginning people really hated them! People didn't understand why we needed hashtags, and the biggest complaint was that people just didn't like how they looked."

When we think of hashtags, we often think of them as being integral parts of a tweet. Chris's intentions were for them to act as meta data for a tweet. Meta data is intended to provide that extra information about a tweet, like your location or event your attending. 

Every time someone uses a channel tag to create a status, not only do we know something specific about that status, but others can eavesdrop on the context of it and then join in the channel and contribute as well...And, perhaps best of all, anyone can choose to leave or remove topics that don't interest them.

Messina is extremely proud of being the inventor of the hashtag in retrospect "because they're a hack and they prove that simple solutions are often the best ways to solve a problem, rather than waiting for a technology solution." 

#Media

Hashtags are used mainly on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The main goal for using the # symbol in front of a word or group of words is so that people who are searching for a popular topic or even event can simply type it in and a whole list pops up related to that specific subject.

Instagram

Here is an example used on Instagram (very popular site for using hashtags): #love (1.6 B posts that contain this tag!!!) Here is an example of a tagged location: #newyorkcity  (25.6 M posts) A great example of a popular tagged event: #metgala (1.4 M posts). These hashtags are proof of how powerful they have the potential to become and how many people actually use social media. Not just MILLIONS.............BILLIONS!

FACEBOOK

Hashtags were first added to Facebook in 2013. Facebook isn't as popular when it comes to being a platform for hashtags. Instagram and Twitter hold this position at the moment for sure. Here are five quick tips that you might want to take note of when it comes to using hashtags on Facebook. 

  1. Remember, #Search is a #Strategy
  2. Likes on Facebook posts increase hashtag relevancy in user user feeds
  3. Real-Time Really matters when it comes to hashtags on Facebook
  4. When using hashtags on Facebook, aim to post more per day
  5. Don't be surprised if you start to notice (a lot of ) changes

The pages and posts on Facebook's feed are based on what you "like". These "likes" are talking about a certain topic, prioritized by time. 

You know what is really interesting? There is absolutely no priority given to people geographically closer to you, meaning your posts can be seen all around the world. 

TWITTER

Twitter, Twitter is where this all started! Chris Messina couldn't have chosen a better social media platform for his invention to become noticed. Even though it wasn't at all easy to get everyone on board with his idea, he still did, he never backed down!  

"The very ephemerality of hashtags is what makes them easy and compelling to use in a fast-moving communication medium like Twitter." - Chris Messina

Proper Use of a #

Come on, is there even a way to properly use a hashtag? Yes, Yes there is. Here are a few tips that will maximize potential tag exposure. You might want to remember these when going to type out that next eye catching hashtag. If you're wanting to promote your brand, hashtags can be used in various ways. 

  • Remember! Always use the # before the keywords of your choice.
  • Never use punctuation or spaces in your hashtags. If you have several key words in a hashtag, #theyshouldallfolloweachother in one fluent phrase.
  • Do Not put characters right before your #. Example: you wouldn't use times#NewYork. Instead, you'd use: #NewYorkTimes
  • Use numbers & letters, never numbers alone. The use of all number such as #1 will never generate a positive search, but #No1inbusiness will. 
  • Keep it Short! There are some people who tend to use too many words in a single hashtag. Don't be one of those people. Try to use the most distinguishable keywords or phrases as possible. 

The key is to use your hashtags to make content more searchable as well as adding a fresher element to your marketing on various social media platforms.  

A good hashtag is Memorable, Unique, and Relevant to the content that you're sharing. 

How to Create Your Own #

First Things First........Make it unique but simple to remember. You don't want to make your # so broad that it's difficult to track.

  • Always be Mindful of Proper Hashtag Etiquette on Each Specific Network
  • Use Hashtags That are a Fit to Your Brand
  • Create # For Promotions
  • Keep Them Short & Memorable
  • Capitalize The First Letter of Each Word
  • Use # in Twitter Chats 

Common Mistakes to AVOID

  1. Never Use Spaces or Special Punctuation
  2. Never Use the Symbol In Hashtags
  3. Don't Spam
  4. Make Sure That the Hashtags You Create Mean What You Think They Do
  5. Check to See If Your Hashtags Actually Work

READY.......SET........START TAGGING!

Now that you've had a chance to obtain some TIPS about hashtags, endless opportunities await. So, go ahead......let your creative abilities soar! 


Malinda Hostetler


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