December 10, 2018

The hashtag has been around since the 1960s. Alternatively known as an octothorpe or the pound sign, it rose to prominence in the last decade because of its use on Twitter and social networks.

But what exactly is it used for? And why has it gained popularity?

What is a Hashtag?

Basically, a hashtag is an eight-ended symbol, also known as an octothorpe, the pound sign, pound, or hash mark. It appears on social media preceding words or phrases.

When placed before certain words, it means one or both of the following:

  • It is part of a larger “campaign” or conversation. The hashtag then becomes a topic (e.g., #MeToo, #OccupyOakland, #BlackFriday #MobileMarketing). The hashtag makes the conversation much easier to search for and follow.
  • Or it could simply be a tongue-in-cheek way to insert a humorous side comment into a social post.

Hashtags: Why Use Them at All?

After more than ten years, it doesn’t look like hashtags are a fad. So, we now use them as marketers to make our work more efficient. Here’s why:

  • Using hashtags allows us to identify with a topic or join in a larger conversation.
  • When we tag our social posts with relevant hashtags, we increase the chances that those following the larger topic will stumble upon our brand or our app, and hopefully click through to find out more.
  • Using hashtags also gives us the ability to name our own campaigns. A unique hashtag makes it simple to find our campaigns on search engines and social networks.
  • Hashtags also allow us to find and discover the thought leaders and influencers behind specific topics.

Hashtag History

In the 1960s, the octothorpe was used to denote telephone numbers. By 1978, it was a symbol used in the C programming language. In 1993, it was used in the IRC program to precede the names of chat rooms or topics. In 2007, it was suggested that people on Twitter use the octothorpe in the same way that IRC used it – to tag topics. And on September 26, 2007, futurist and information technologist Stowe Boyd first called the octothorpe a “hashtag” and the name stuck.

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