The hashtag has come a long way since its humble beginning. Hashtags began as a simple way to organize and categorize conversations and have since developed into a Twitter culture focal point. Today, hashtags help ensure that your tweets don’t get lost in the sea of conversations, but also provide a way to entertain, attract customers, publicize, and generate attention for events and organizations.
Here’s a simple peek at how the hashtag has evolved.
The Twitter hashtag had a fairly simple beginning. In 2007, Chris Messina, formerly of the consulting firm Citizen’s Agency, put it forth as an idea for group use. He tweeted the following, “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” Many people responded with varying viewpoints, and some felt the # sign could change the way people used Twitter. Those who took that position were absolutely correct!
Hashtag hyperlinking made hashtags uber-functional. Since hashtags become links in Twitter, they can be useful in two very important ways. First, they can be used in searches. Want to find tweets focused on a particular conversation, brand, or event? Just type its hashtag in the search box, and you get a whole list of related tweets. Reading a tweet and want to find more on the topic? It’s easy breezy to get to a whole related stream! Just click the hashtag in the tweet, and the conversation stream is right there waiting for you!
Trending topics made hashtags even more popular with Twitter users. Hashtag getting a whole lot of traffic? Twitter makes it even more visible by including it on its first page as a trending topic. And users can customize which trends they see by setting their trend selection to worldwide, country-, state-, or city-wide.
Hashtags are primarily functional and do suit the find-and-categorize purpose very well. However, they’ve also evolved into a means of self-expression, as people create them out of unexpected words or phrases or use them to make a point, a joke, or even to express sarcasm. Some examples include:
Twitter and Beyond
Today, hashtags are commonly used in conversations to make similar tweets on the same conversation or topic easy to find – such as for a Twitter chat or Twitter party. They’re also used for offline events, allowing Twitter users to stay up to date on what’s going on, plan, and participate. Likewise, they’re frequently used for sharing news and encouraging participation in organized events such as fundraisers.
Even more interesting, however, is that they’ve spread beyond Twitter! You won’t just find them on Twitter itself. You’ll also find them on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, and other social media platforms; in email; in blogs; in online articles; and even in promotional materials, especially for events and non-profits.
What do you think of the way hashtags have changed communication on Twitter and beyond? Share with us!