Last year the hashtag, one of the most influent sign in the digital area, celebrated its 10th birthday. Nowadays almost everybody has used (at least once) a hashtag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
According to Les Echos, more than 125 million hashtags are used per day in 2017. This figure is increasing since the creation of the Hashtag in 1988.
But where does the Hashtag come from ? what is its impact on the social media environment?
The origin of the Hashtag
A google idea :
Essential on the social network today, the hashtag, was born in 2007. It was created by a Google engineer called Chris Messina. Initially, he used it to classify tweets talking about the same theme. Hashtag comes from the verb hash, so you have to hash or classified by using # and a word. The primary function was to classify and list contents in order to find it easily on the web. But after, he proposed to create discussions flow linked to each other by a Hashtag.
A slow launch
This new type of communication did not become viral immediately. Indeed, Twitter waited for 2009 to launch it on its famous social network and allowed people to click on it.
The hashtag’s role evolved on the social network. People no more only classified contents, but they gave a meaning to the content through the hashtag.
The first famous Hashtag was #FF (Follow Friday). People advised others to follow Twitter’s accounts. The hashtag became viral!
In 2013, it arrived on Facebook. Its role was not adapted to Facebook because it helps people to classify short content. However, Facebook offers long content and people can talk to each other through comments. But in 2013, Facebook announced that people will be able to search it and to publish Hashtag on Facebook. Hashtags on LinkedIn will appear the same year as Facebook.
The impact and use on the social networks.
As a web marketer or a community manager, it is hard to imagine how did they do before the Hashtag to find a discussion on the web.
This evolution and also thanks to the users digital, the hashtag became a strong tool to build your brand image and to benchmark its position against competitors.
A strong tool for your business
By expressing feelings and interpreting content, in a business view you can monitor and evaluate campaigns you launched through Hashtags.
Indeed, when marketers create a campaign, they can create a specific Hashtags or people may also associate hashtag to your campaign. Those hashtags became one of their KPI’s to measure the impact of the campaign on the social network.
Hashtags can be used to spy competitors.
In fact, marketers can :
- Find out the most powerful influencers by searching hashtag themes
- Point out which Hashtag direct competitors use and measure the efficiency
- Increase the time of campaigns through hashtags, for instance if someone retweet a post it gave you another chance to appear on the web. You can evaluate rebound rate.
Hashtags and politics
Politics and Twitter are like a jockey and its horse, they are indivisible. Twitter became the most used social platform by politics. With its 318 billions of users, it is a strong way to communicate and launch its ideas in live.
The community manager’s goal in politics (and business) is to engage people and lead them to retweet the content.
In the United-States, Barack Obama was the first one to understand the power of Twitter. He hired more than 750 community managers to build his image on Twitter (in a more large way, on the social network)
Nowadays it is mandatory to use hashtags and Twitter in politics. Without this tools, you will lose 59% of digital native users between 16 and 34 years old (source: figures Twitter – Q3 2017).
A social usage
Hashtags are also a way to gather people and to fights for causes.
In April 2014, the kidnapping of 276 young girls by Boko Haram in Chibok (Nigeria) spark a wave of international support with #BringBackOurGirls.
More than 1,3 billion tweets were exchanged in one afternoon.
Source : Michelle Obama Post on Twitter, 7 May 2014
Hashtag’s are also used to express an emotion and engage a solidarity movement. For instance after the act of terrorism in Charlie Hebdo the 7th January 2015 in Paris, #JeSuisCharlie has been tweeted more than 5 millions times in 2 days. In November #PrayForParis was created and tweeted more than 6 millions times. This slogan was adapted to protest against terrorism for other situation such as #PrayForBerlin after the attack in December 2016 in a market.
In a philanthropist view, #IceBucketChallenge, a challenge where the participant must pour a bucket of ice water on their heads, have raised more than 100 million dollars to fight against Charcot disease.
In 2016, hashtags gather people around sports events. With the #Rio2016 for the Olympics games, #Euro2016 for the football tournament.
The hashtags usage became mandatory if you are doing business and politics. It allows also to create a lot of engagement around either happy and sad moments and gather people to fight for causes.
The research of the perfect Hashtag for the most efficient marketing campaign remains the most important question.
One advice, 18 characters is the optimal size of the hashtag on Twitter.
Amanda Mc Arthur – « The history of hashtags » – Livewire – 30th of august 2016 Leena Rao – « Twitter Makes Hashtags More #Useful » – Techcrunch – 2nd of July 2009 Andrew Hutchinson – « New Report Looks at Optimal Hashtag Use on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook » – Social Media Today – 21st of October 2016 Julie Rambal – « Quand le hashtag veut changer le monde » – Le Temps – 7th of November 2017
“10 ans de Hashtag” – Le point – 2rd of August 2017