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The Power of the Hashtag

08 August 2014

The Internet and social media have only reinforced the need for constant updates and communication.

We all want information instantly. The Internet and social media have only reinforced the need for constant updates and communication. With so much information out there how do we filter through all of it – or better yet, reach the people we want to reach? The Hashtag has empowered social media users to instantly access the information and topics relevant to them. Besides being a fun and interactive aspect to social media it is also a powerful tool for businesses.

When twitter started a majority of its users were individuals sharing parts of their lives – 140 characters at a time. Twitter users organically created the Hashtag to categorize Tweets (Ref). It quickly gained popularity on Twitter and became an integral part of the Twitter user experience. With “Hashtag” just recently being added to the Oxford English dictionary (June 2014) it will definitely be around for quite some time. At first it was an exceptionally strange concept to understand. I remember when I signed up for twitter in 2009 the only thing I saw was random @ and # symbols everywhere and immediately closed it. It was only a few months later that I tried to get into it again because all the radio DJs were using it. Now 5 years later I have clocked up 14,9k tweets.

The Hashtag has made its way to other social media platforms from Instagram to Vine to Tumblr to Facebook. Social media is about self-promotion: we only post the best sides of ourselves and create the illusion of the perfect life. With millions of people using all these various social media platforms to promote themselves it’s only natural that businesses (big and small) have capitalized on the opportunity to present themselves to millions of social media users from all over the world for free. Using a wide range of platforms companies can showcase various aspects of their business and what they offer.

The Hashtag is a social search tool. As an example, when you are scrolling through your Twitter Feed and see a Tweet of a particular news story you have been following you simply click on the Hashtag that is being used. This will immediately take you to a page where links from various users and news sites will be available to take you straight to the news article. Once you have landed on a particular website you are more likely to continue browsing other news stories and will be exposed to adverts and banners on the website bringing more views and hits to the news site and the advertisers. A win for all involved. #winning

Big corporate companies are using Hashtags to promote new products, competitions or advertising campaigns: it is often seen on billboards, along with the username of the particular company, for all the relevant social media sites on which they can be found. Again, this is an easy way to get a very specific target group of people to find out more information about the product or services offered. Firstly the user will see what other people are saying as well as a direct link to the company’s Twitter profile which will contain the website. The more users they can get to use the particular Hashtag that they promote, the more people talk about it (on social media and in real life). Ultimately, they would want the Hashtag to be seen on Twitter’s Trending topics list, which is a location-based list updated in real time to show what users are currently tweeting about. If the company has one particular Hashtag that they carry through all their social media accounts, it is also easy for their potential customers and existing customers to find exactly what they are looking for when they search.

Social media aided by the Hashtag is an invaluable marketing tool for companies and individuals. Do not be afraid to hashtag. It is the fastest and easiest way to share and find relative information across your social networking footprint; that is if you aren’t searching #selfie.