The hashtag, or the art of prefixing a word or statement with the # symbol, is an important tool in linking people and topics together through social media. Although the hashtag originated in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and has since gained tremendous popularity through Twitter, its modern usage and acceptance continues to bring social media trends, and those who follow them, together in a united global community with a technological twist.
Let’s consider movies for example. When a new trailer is released the marketing agency behind the production will usually tag it with a hashtag. This hashtag allows the company to then promote a tweet or trend while establishing a means to track commentary and opinions. Additionally, this allows the agency to evaluate consumer reactions and unite their social media fan base in order to fully optimize their film’s exposure. Johnny Knoxville’s new movie Bad Grandpa, for example, recently used the hashtag #BadGrandpaMovie to promote their film and the positive feedback of its viewers and critics.
Another example of proper hashtag use is seen weekly through professional sports as fans are connected for game specific conversations. The NFL creates a new hashtag for each game based on who’s playing, for example, if the Washington Redskins are playing in Denver against the Broncos, the hashtag would be #WASvsDEN (visitor vs. home team). Before this was the standard, if I tweeted out, “OMG what a catch!!” nobody would have known if I was watching football, the fishing network, or the season premiere of The Bachelor. However, when I tweet out, “OMG what a catch!!! #WASvsDEN” the hashtag shows my comments correspondence with the topic and everyone involved understands immediately. Additionally, if I were to tweet,”OMG what a catch!! #Broncos” my circle of conversation would become more specific to Broncos fans verse those interested in the other team. #Losers.
But why do some people use so many hashtags?
I get asked this question a lot. Typically, when used correctly, this is a method to connect with several different topics at once. When I make a Denver Broncos meme on instagram for example, I’ll use multiple hashtags like #Denver #Broncos #UnitedInOrange to reach a broader audience. That way anyone that searches for just #Denver on instagram could stumble upon my Broncos meme and I’ll still gain a follower as a result.
The other explanation to multiple hashtags is that either a user doesn’t understand hashtags in general or is sarcastically mocking them. If I tweeted, “This doughnut is delicious #nomnomnom #yummy #dontcareifitmakesmefat” I’m poking fun at hashtags in a comical way that’s both humorous and engaging. Although there’s no real connection to the hashtags themselves, I’m able to express much more through their usage than I would through standard prose. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake have a funny skit mocking this scenario called #hashtag that’s definitely worth a view.
Either way, technology continues to expand and hashtags have now made their way to both Facebook and Google Plus. That’s exciting! This allows consumers, advertisers, and creators to search public posts that use a hashtag for both information and a prospective audience. For a developer like me, this is incredibly exciting and I can’t stop the ideas and potential opportunities from racing through my mind! The ability to unify a brand with three of the world’s largest social media sites is the equivalent of discovering an untapped mine of internet gold.
Hopefully that helps in understanding how hashtags are being used.