Hip, Hip, Hooray – three cheers for the #hashtag
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the humble hashtag’s (#) debut on Twitter – a symbol that has now become a familiar component of online conversation. Whether you use to it indicate the location you are posting from (#Glastonbury), or what you are posting about (#HenDo), or the ‘conversation’ you are joining (#covfefe), the hashtag has shown it has the potential to shape elections and launch social movements, becoming a defining symbol of the digital age.
So where did the hashtag come from? Its story started back in 2007, when early adopters of Twitter began developing tools to organise their tweets. It was only in 2009, when enough people were using it (remember the #FollowFriday hashtag?) that Twitter decided to embrace the feature and its developers built an automatic search tool so users could see who else was using the same hashtags. Today, hashtags aren’t just used on Twitter – you’ll find them used on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr – people now even drop the word into conversation.
Anyone can create a hashtag, and anyone can use that hashtag, in any context – so they can’t be controlled and can sometimes create disorder. The prospect of grabbing attention on social media, however, is a temptation that brands can’t resist – and neither should they! In the world of marketing where we previously noted down a URL or searched for a word on Google, the hashtag has become the new call-to-action and, in many cases, the tagline for an entire campaign (think #ThisGirlCan) with the hope of igniting digital conversations – and in many cases, it is a success.
The hashtag is a powerful tool with which to market your business, product, service or message – be creative with your hashtags but remember to keep them relevant. We like to use a number of tools which have helped us hone our hashtag expertise. My personal favourite is RiteTag – a platform which gives instant feedback on the popularity and strength of your desired hashtag – and better yet, it’s free! Not only do I use it to analyse the strength of a hashtag but it also gives inspiration for other hashtags that I could be using in my post.
So, three cheers to the humble hashtag – I am sure Chris Messina, the first person to tweet using a hashtag, didn’t foresee it becoming the trend, and the useful tool, it is today.