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The History of the Hashtag

Bridget Meyers

Bridget Meyers

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petit_louis/

Ever wonder when the pound sign (#) turned into a form of communication on social media known as the hashtag? You’re not alone. The history of the hashtag as a social media staple is most often traced back to a tweet made by Chris Messina. The tweet that launched the hashtag’s fame was rather basic, he simply asked followers what they thought of using the pound sign, #, to group things. From there, the hashtag became a mainstay in tweets and eventually in posts from all social media platforms.

Fun fact: reports state that Twitter’s founder, Evan Williams, was skeptical of the hashtags effectiveness on his platform. As we are all aware, Mr. Williams was pretty off base that with that initial thought #sorrynotsorry. Before the hashtag became a social media essential, it was employed by Twitter users for the purpose of collecting discussions and online exchanges in one place. A string of wildfires in California were what really showed users the benefits of the hashtag. Thanks to #sandiegofire, users from all over were able to receive live updates from users in California and from news/media outlets tweeting updates about the blaze. From this moment on the hashtag became a symbol of digital connection, allowing users all over the globe to discover and connect with one current event, situation, pop culture icon, or news story.

Today, we are all familiar with the use of the hashtag in all of our favorite social media platforms. Aside from its ability to categorize tweets, the hashtag is now a popular form of content suggestion for users and marketers on social platforms. It’s almost impossible to make it a week without seeing an account use one of the hashtags centered around a day of the week. For example, that girl you knew from high school lets you keep track of her love life with her weekly use of #mancrushmonday. Or if you’re brave enough to share pictures of yourself from middle school, #transformationtuesday and #throwbackthursday are the way to do it. From a marketing standpoint, the days of the week hastags are great for creating a recurring social feature to connect with followers. Here’s a list of popular hashtags.

As with all things social media, use of a hashtag is not as easy as adding your thought or event behind the # symbol. It takes more than a keyword to create a hashtag following, you need to find the balance of unique brand identity and an existing audience. It’s no easy feat, just ask these social teams. My personal favorite comes from the PR team of Susan Boyle who tweeted out the hashtag #susanalbumparty. Read it however you will, but her PR team quickly learned their lesson. From marketer to marketer, or marketer to user, the best social media tip is always, think before you post. #WednesdayWisdom

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