#Hashtags. Even if you aren’t a social media junkie, it’s pretty hard to avoid this pesky little pound sign popping up in conversation, on and off the internet. In fact, the word ‘hashtag’ was voted 2012’s word of the year by the American Dialect Society and is quickly defining a new era of communication.
So what is this pound symbol doing in our status updates and where did it come from? The evolution of the hashtag in today’s social media is a pretty fascinating progression. It’s actually prompted quite a few #studies on the deep and diverse psychology behind it. But the original intention of the hashtag was simple. The first suggestion was tweeted by Chris Messina in 2007, now dubbed the father of the hashtag, as a simple way to categorize conversations and groups on Twitter.
Although, this was not a new idea; Twitter had been trying to come up with a way to organize their conversations years before hand, referring to them as ‘tagspaces’ in 2005. Chris Heuer defined it as “the glue between people identifying something and those seeking it out”. The pound sign is just what happened to stick. The hashtag took off on Twitter, making it easier for Twitter users to find conversations of interest and other like-minded individuals across the platform, but then the hashtag began to evolve. Users began to use this symbol to convey expression and sentiment. As #BrianSolis puts it, “Hashtags are to the social web what emoticons were to Web 1.0 and TXTing”.
Hashtags have a large variety of uses throughout social platforms but are most often used as a form of self expression. Each hashtag represents revolving markets with greatly varying lifespans and are used as a form of declaration, sentiment, sarcasm, inner monologue, or subconscious, but stated thought.
For example, hashtags can be used to convey indifference
(I spit my gum out of my car window #sorryimnotsorry),
(Just stepped in some loser’s chewed gum #somepeoplearesuchjerks),
or can simply link you to a conversation about something in particular
(#chewinggum is gross).
When there are a very limited number of characters, hashtags play an important role in getting a point across. Hashtags add tone to an otherwise flat world. Who hasn’t had an email, TXT, or social media conversation that has been misconstrued? Who hasn’t wished for a sarcasm smiley face? Hashtags allow us to bring emotion back into conversation.
As the world wide web continues to evolve, so does the application of the hashtag. Twitter no longer has the hashtag monopoly; Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest have all adopted this symbol as a means of organization. Even Facebook users throw a gratuitous hashtag into a status update now and then (even though Facebook doesn’t have a practical use for this function, yet). And as more and more businesses join these social networks, the possibilities for hashtags seem endless. #SocialMediaMarketers can use hashtags to run contests, join conversations with fans, and make it easier to find potential consumers of specific #products or #services. There are even online #services now that provide insights, statistics and tracking on hashtags alone.
So if you haven’t done so yet, give this hashtag thing a try. Sure, it was annoying at first, but hashtags can be a freeing way to express your #innerdialogue. And you definitely can’t conquer today’s social media without climbing aboard today’s hashtag train!
Miranda Imperi is an Integrated Search Specialist at Lead to Conversion. She specializes in content marketing and relationship building and believes in a holistic and integrated approach to SEO. She has helped many businesses improve their internet presence and traffic through link building, guest blogging, and social media platform optimization.