#Evolution #of #the #Hashtag

#Blessed, #FitFam, #Coachella2015, #TheAvengers, #JonandKimGetMarried. Hashtags. Once recognized as simply the pound button, hashtags have become second nature to social media users. 

We use them on a daily basis, but why? When going to send out a tweet, Facebook post, or any other social media update, many people without even thinking about it will put a pound sign in front of a phrase, place, or even just a word. 

When Brett O’Grady, a freshman marketing student, thought about why she uses hashtags on social media, she said, “I really have nothing to say about hashtags besides that I don’t really understand a thing about them, and to me they serve no purpose. They are probably very important to someone else, like a  person in a certain professional position, but not to me.”

Luckily though, putting in all that extra effort to add hashtags to your post is not for nothing. In 2010 computer scientist Alan Mislove of Northeastern University found that at any given time, just by analyzing tweets and hashtags, you can get a general sense of whether America is happy or sad on a particular day. 

So, who started all this? Who decided categorizing our posts into conversations would be a good idea? 

Early Twitter pioneer, Chris Messina, is the mastermind behind the hashtag. His concept was simple, let’s use the pound sign to organize posts into meaningful groups. This way we can connect with people from all over the world about a topic at hand.  Though Messina could have technically patented the hashtag and made money off of it, he chose not to. 

According to Business Insider, Messina said, “I had no interest in making money (directly) off hashtags. They are born of the Internet, and should be owned by no one.

 The value and satisfaction I derive from seeing my funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough for me to be relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down this stupidly simple but effective idea.”

Hashtags become links on social media sites and can be useful to find posts about a conversation, brand or event. Just type in the hashtag in the search box and get a whole list of related posts from people around the world.  Come across a tweet and want to find out more about the topic? Just click the hashtag and you are instantly put into the conversation. 

“I don’t think I really use [hashtags] too much,” said Rachel Fox, a senior English and P-3 education student. 

“Unless I’m using them to hashtag a place or event. For example, this summer I went to a country music festival and it was easier to write #TasteofCountryFest than write out and explain where I am on top of a caption.” Fox continued.

The hashtag started as a way to categorize conversations and connect the people talking about the same topic. They have now blown up. 

Pat Layton, a senior communication student, said, “Hashtags allow you to stand out from the crowd with a post.” The social media student added, “You can create one for an event to easily follow what people are saying about it.”

Hashtags are available to use on all social media sites and for a whole array of topics. From conversations to events to places, our world revolves around hashtags and most of us do not even realize it. 

When you enter #besties in your Friday night post, you are not only shortening a sentence to let everyone know you are in a picture with your best friend, but you are also entering a world connected to a bunch of other people with their best friends. 

In most recent times, news has been amplified by hashtags. Remember how you saw posts with #BringBackOurGirls? This was used to connect people all over the world on the current event topic of the Boko Haram kidnapping of over 200 school girls. You might have not used this hashtag, but the massive amount of posts containing this hashtag made it harder to avoid not knowing the topic. 

Hashtags are a way of raising awareness. Any major event in the last six years somehow has a hashtag attached to it. Hashtags have helped to literally start revolutions. 

Back in 2011, during Egypt’s revolution, the hashtags #Jan25 and #Egypt helped to organize and raise awareness to get more people behind the movement and make it succesful. Paul Revere would have killed for that type of ease in letting everyone know #TheBritishAreComing.

Revolutionaries have found use in the hashtag; everyday social media users have found use in shortening captions and connecting with a community on a topic; and even businesses have found a use for the hashtag. 

For the first time, businesses are able to connect with their customers closer than ever. Large corporations have departments dedicated to answering tweets, tracking social media followers and creating interesting content. Hashtags help to amplify all of this.

Hashtags give businesses the ability to see what people are saying about them. Bad experience at Chipotle? Write a complaint and hashtag Chipotle so the company is able to respond and better improve their business. 

Mary Harris, a specialist professor of communication who teaches a social media course, said, “Hashtags are excellent tools for building brand awareness and supporting a company’s growth. Hashtags make online searches more efficient by categorizing content, which leads potential consumers and fans to connect with organizations that are relevant to their interests.”

After Taco Bell rolled out their new breakfast menu, they promoted using a hashtag after your experience so Taco Bell could see in real time how people were responding; the quickest way to see if their new menu item was a hit or a miss and respond accordingly. 

Hashtags also allow companies to target certain people. Purina looking to focus a new product on pitbulls, using the popular #pitbullsofinsta hashtag, they are instantly connected to a community of people their new product would be perfect for. 

Hashtags are still in their infancy: only introduced in 2007, they are not even ten years old yet. As time goes on more and more people will come up with creative ways to use them. 

Most recently, American Express rolled out a way to pay using a hashtag. The possibilities are endless and really just beginning. 

So next time you throw a hashtag into your social media post, know you are joining a whole community that is feeling the same way as you. 


IMAGE TAKEN from Twitter