So what does that # symbol in front of word like #buttercup or #chocolateicecream on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ mean? Illumine8 will help to explain what hashtags mean and how they're used. Next thing you know you'll be #hashtag chatting on The Tonight Show.
Hashtags on Twitter were originally developed to create groups for tracking a topic. Simply put, it's much like using sticky notes in book pages or how file-folders in a file cabinet work. Hashtags organize and help to find tweets or social media posts on specific topics.
History of the #Hashtag
A little history on the hashtag dates back to around 1988. The geeky term was referred to as metadata tags. They were used much as they are today for grouping messages, images, content, and video into categories on platforms known as Internet Relay Chat or IRC. Users could simply search hashtags and gather all relevant content associated with them.
In August 2007, blogger, Stowe Boyd was the first to officially call them “hash tags” in a blog post, but it was in October 2007 when a San Diego resident, Nate Ridder, started all his postings with the hashtag #sandiegofire, which was intended to inform people worldwide about the ongoing wildfires in the area at the time.
Twitter formally adopted the hashtag in 2009 and anything with the # in front of it became hyper-linked. Once Twitter introduced its “Trending Topics” the hashtag was accentuated and placed the most popular hashtags right on its homepage.
#Hashtags for Personal Use
Most people use the hashtag for fun. When tweeting, you don’t have to use the hashtag symbol. Your tweets will show up in a social media search. However, the hashtag is particularly helpful when you want to narrow your search or tweet about a particular event, brand, category, etc.
Hashtags used in your personal life can be helpful in keeping family and friends in the loop of what is going on in your life and the things they are most interested in knowing about. A great way to use a hashtag would be if you are trying to spread the word of a particular cause you may be involved in. Hashtagging your #cause will allow them to quickly find the latest new about you and others doing the same. Hashtags can also express emotions that complete social media phrases.
New to hashtags and want to know what they mean? Visit Hashtags.org where you can find a directory of common hashtags including trends and what’s popular.
#Hashtags for Business
Corporations and small companies have been responsible for creating some of the most popular hashtags to promote a specific product or service. This is a way to not only join in on a conversation topic, but creates new dialogue. Hashtags can be used to talk up a campaign or spread buzz about an upcoming event.
Many trending hashtags are simply used to share an opinion. Others help organize news stories around major events. And sometimes they're just made up on the fly to make a Tweet sound funnier. The interpretation and usage is always up to you, like most Twitter lingo, but the most basic function of a hashtag is to create a single, organized feed of Tweets around each one.
5 Tips for Sucessful Hashtag Marketing Campaigns
- Promote a #Hashtag for a corporate event
These are things like college classes, conferences, clubs, associations, or online events, where there's a certain group of people who want to share information among themselves through tweets. Promoting the use of one hashtag allows users to connect via a digital experience and keep the conversation going long before or after an event.
- Online Conventions
These are usually short terms or abbreviations that have become common ways to express certain concepts. Throwback Thursday (#TBT) for instance is a common campaign online. By particiaping in these larger campaigns marketers can achieve greater visability to a broader audience.
- Promote Emotion
Does the message elict the right emoition? Use a hashtag to define that emotion such as #thankful, #proud or #excited.
- Drive Engagement
Brands that embraced a hashtag and a link in their social media messages experienced 12% higher click through rates. Take this one step further by testing different hashtags theme variations to see which ones get higher click rates.
- Hashtags are universal
Because hashtags have been embraced by most social media platforms, they are more universal than listing a twitter handle or facebook page id. Save valuable ad space by driving your social engagement to a hashtag campaign rather than to several different social media links.
Next time you are looking to add social strategy to your next marketing campaign make sure you consider #hashtags. How do you incorporate #Hashtags in your social media posts. Do you think they add or detract from the message? Leave a message in the comment box and let us know what you think.
About the Author: Christina May, Real Estate Marketing Consultant and Managing Partner at Illumine8 Marketing and PR firm based in Frederick, Maryland. Recent MNCBIA GALA award winner for Best Sales Center Design and Chair of the Brunswick Economic Development Commission.