What’s the deal with the #Hashtag?


By now everyone has seen or heard about hashtags. Yes, ‘heard’, because hashtags have now infiltrated contemporary culture and advertising campaigns. Some people have complained about how the hashtag is ruining the English Language. Regardless of origin, or how you may feel about hashtags, they will not be going away soon.

The history of hashtags

For decades, the hashtag symbol was more commonly referred to as the pound sign (#). In recent years, this seemingly ordinary symbol evolved into greater significance in a modern world slowly but surely being dominated by social media – as a cyber-appendage, social media users attach it to words of certain relevance.

While the pound sign, A.K.A hashtag, was already in common use decades ago, the use of this symbol as a metadata element for tracking words is not a new technology or practice. Back in the ‘good old days’ of early internet chat, hashtags were already used to categorise items such as images, messages, videos and other content into groups. Hashtags made it possible for users to easily search for relevant and other associated content.

Why hashtags?

Hashtags are an efficient method to find content related to specific topics, as well as the people talking about those topics. Just as searches are conducted on platforms such as Google, search also happens on social media platforms. People search platforms every day including LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, and other social platforms using words and hashtags to find relevant content. People also use hashtags when they publish content to social media platforms, so that their content will appear in the search results of people looking for that particular topic (such as “#LinkedIntutorial”).

When you optimise conversations, content, and updates with hashtags, they become more visible to others on social media platforms and search engines. A simple click or search for a hashtag will display those using that hashtag in conversation – instantly identifying an audience with common interests.

How does it work?

If you create a hashtag, you can register it on Hashtags.org, which also provides tracking. Although you can’t prevent others from using the hashtag, it may be useful to claim a hashtag that could be integral to discussion around a trademark, promotional campaign, or event. You also want others to use your hashtag as often as possible. If you are using a hashtag for a specific event, be sure to include it on social media profiles, or better yet, on the related website in a post, encouraging people to use it when talking about your product or service. In this way, if you wanted to see what people are saying about your product or service, all you should do is search the hashtag.

Previously, Twitter was the only place hashtags were used. Now, hashtags appear online and offline – all intended to promote public engagement.

For more information, contact Karlien Theart at karlien@succeedgroup.co.za

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.