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The History of the #Hashtag

Unless you have been living under a rock, chances are you have heard of the term, ‘hashtag,’ and are familiar with the social media phenomenon that it has created. Who started this phenomenon, though, and how did such a simple concept take over the social media world so quickly? We are going to answer those questions as well as talk about how incorporating the use of hashtags into your online marketing strategy can be a smart business decision. Love it or hate it, the hashtag is here to stay, folks! Let’s take a look at the history of the hashtag.

The Hashtag Timeline

The hashtag first found its home on Twitter in 2007, after social technology expert, Chris Messina posted a tweet suggesting the use of the # (pound) for grouping messages on Twitter. Messina was a long time user of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and was influenced by the IRC’s use of hashtags to communicate online. This whole hashtag phenomenon started with a simple concept and a single tweet using the hashtag, “#barcamp.” Are you having one of those moments where you kick yourself and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Yeah, join the club. You know who else is probably kicking himself? – Twitter founder, Evan Williams, who initially shot down Messina’s idea – ouch. So, let’s take a look at the evolution timeline of the hashtag –

  • 2007 – The birth of the first hashtag used on Twitter, posted by Chris Messina - #barcamp

  • 2009 – Twitter began to hyperlink the hashtags used in tweets to Twitter search results – Twitter knows a good thing when they see it.

  • 2010 – Twitter introduced “Trending Topics” to their page – which highlights hashtag topics becoming rapidly popular – giving Twitter even more connectivity between its users.

  • 2011 – Instagram adopted the use of hashtags to help users discover photographs as well as each other. This led to popular hashtag trends developed by Instagram, such as the Weekend Hashtag Project and #ThrowbackThursday.

  • 2013 – Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake make the hashtag even more famous with this epic Saturday Night Live skit.

  • 2013 – Facebook adopts the use of hashtags into their algorithm, leaving ‘Facebook only’ social media users slightly confused and the older generation of Facebook users really annoyed.

  • 2014 – It’s official! ‘Hashtag’ is added to the Oxford English Dictionary and is defined as, “a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.”

  • 2015 – In a word, #worldwide!

There you have it, folks – the evolution of the hashtag, and it continues to surprise us with its many uses. The power of the hashtag is far more complex than a simple #ThrowbackThursday post.

  • News can actually travel faster now through the use of hashtags, than with Breaking News coverage on local news stations. Because of this, Twitter has now become a primary resource for many news stations.

  • Hashtag campaigns are becoming a huge hit for small businesses as well as worldwide companies to incorporate into their marketing strategies. Here are some creative hashtag campaigns that have taken off so far, in 2015.

  • Hashtag campaigns are also becoming a big part of human rights. Organizations are now using hashtag campaigns to raise awareness and promote activism. Campaigns such as the #Kony2012 and #YesAllWomen were extremely successful in raising awareness.

People Love to Hate the Hashtag

Although the hashtag has made its mark on our world and its popularity and usage continues to grow, not everyone has welcomed it with open arms. We all have that friend that uses hashtags in a way that is simply the most annoying thing ever. There have been blogs after blogs posted, pointing out all of these annoying hashtag habits. Are you nervously wondering right now if you are one of these people? Here are some hashtag habits that you should avoid at all costs.

Now that you know a little bit more about the history and evolution of the hashtag, start using it to your advantage! Get connected with your fellow world wide web users and let the world know what you have to say.

How's your social media going? If you need a few pointers (or just want to talk about the wonders of the hashtag), reach out to us at The Storyteller Agency. We'd love to help you tell your story. Call us at 850.267.0931 or email us at Ready to stop marketing and start storytelling?