Get Trending! The History of the Hashtag and How to Use One

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You recently honed your Twitter marketing skills, and now it’s time to expand on your knowledge using hashtags. The hashtag is the cornerstone of any Twitter marketing strategy—and social media marketing as a whole.

What is the hashtag, and where did it come from? How do you create the best hashtag for your Twitter marketing campaign? Here’s a brief history of the Twitter hashtag, as well as some best practices when using hashtags in your social media marketing.

#TriviaTuesday: The History of the Hashtag

A hashtag is a keyword or phrase preceded by the # symbol. It’s a unique creature, since it exists without spaces or punctuation marks. The hashtag is used to categorize topics and identify specific messages on Twitter and many other social media platforms. Hashtags are pivotal to Twitter marketing, allowing businesses to increase brand awareness and gather new followers.

The hashtag was first used on Twitter by social media guru, Chris Messina. Messina initially suggested using the # to identify group gathering online in August 2007. The hashtag would officially take off in October 2007 when journalists used the hashtag, #SanDiegoFire, while covering a series of forest fires in San Diego. Today, hashtags can be used to cover a variety of topics from music and film to politics.

In 2017, hashtags have become the staple of Twitter marketing. They are important since they keep the audience informed and allow businesses to receive feedback from their customers in real time.

#WisdomWednesday: What Makes a Good Hashtag

As you may have guessed, creating a good hashtag is easier said than done. Twitter provides a useful infographic to help users get started choosing a hashtag on their website. The following elements are what comprise the best trending hashtags.

Be brief

Less is more. It’s cliche, but it is especially true when marketing on Twitter. It’s imperative to remember the 140 character limit on Twitter. This limit can hinder your message, so keeping content to a minimum is crucial. A successful Tweet can be comprised of a combination of captions, links, pictures, gifs, video, and hashtags.

Don’t overuse hashtags. Tweets with too many hashtags can often be messy. Instead, opt for a descriptive caption to elaborate on your message or attach a picture or gif to provide a visual cue.

Be clear

It’s important to use the utmost clarity when using a hashtag. Since a hashtag can be phrases or a group of keywords attached without the use of spaces, Twitter users can easily misinterpret your message.

A clear focus helps narrow down the topic you’re Tweeting about. For example, when discussing marketing tips online instead of simply using #marketingtips, we use #TwitterTips or #SocialMediaTips to emphasize a specific topic.

There are countless, infamous tales of individuals and companies whose hashtags were misinterpreted and taken out of context. Infamy may not be bad if your company does not have a brand image and wants to be known as a controversial brand.

One example that comes to mind is when Susan Boyle’s PR team used the hashtag #susanalbumparty to promote her album release party in 2012. Unknowingly, they basically invited Twitter users to a “suspicious bum party.” Proofread and check for double entendres when using hashtags. The last thing your brand image needs is to be associated with inappropriate or vulgar content.

Be unique

The purpose of your hashtag is to raise brand awareness, so it’s important to use a unique hashtag to represent the individuality of your brand. A unique hashtag will help your Twitter marketing efforts since it’s easy to remember. The more unique it is, the easier it will be for your audience to identify it with your brand. A unique hashtag is key to creating brand differentiation on Twitter.

On the flip side, using a hashtag that is too vague or too common will not help your brand stand out. The point of being unique is not to be lost in a sea of commonality. You don’t want to be like everybody else, especially your competitors. Your Twitter marketing will have been in vain if you fail to draw attention to your company.

For example, here at Post Launch, we use #ThisIsPostLaunch when sharing content about our team, brand, and services. This helps our audience understand who we are, as well as identify us through a hashtag that is unique to our company.

Be eventful

Hashtags are a great way to promote company or industry events. To create an event hashtag, start with the name of the event. Want to make it an annual thing? Add the year at the end of the hashtag. You can finally shorten the hashtag by abbreviating the name of the event as an acronym. For example, shorten #NewYearsEve2017 to #NYE17.

It’s never too early to use your event hashtag. Prior to the event, generate buzz and build anticipation by Tweeting about the event using the hashtag.

Make sure participants are involved in the event by encouraging live Tweeting. Through live Tweeting, attendees will share their experience in real time. Live Tweeting by attendees is important for the following reasons:

  1. Didn’t get great pictures of your event? The hashtag feed will give you tons of pictures of the event at your disposal.
  2. It’s basically free promotion. Live event Tweets are essentially good reviews to a wider audience.
  3. Your attendees’ followers are going to be so jealous that they missed out on the fun.

After the event, keep the conversation going! This is a great opportunity to survey the opinions and reactions of the event. Finally, post throwback pictures to the event days or weeks after the event takes place to remind attendees and educate new followers about the fun.

#DidYouKnow: Do’s and Don’ts

Knowing how to create a good trending hashtag is half the battle. Here are some general do’s and don’ts to follow when using hashtags.

Do:

  • Use catchy phrases: If you find a catchy phrase, use it as a hashtag. Catchy phrases are memorable. As long as they are relevant, they can help your brand awareness.
  • Keep it short: Remember that character limit! Use understandable abbreviations and acronyms. This can be especially helpful when creating event hashtags. Want to make it an annual thing? Stick the year at the end of hashtag.
  • Proofread: Hashtags can be tricky since they do not contain spaces or punctuation marks. Again, proofread and double check your hashtag for hidden meanings before you Tweet it out. (You don’t want to invite your followers to a “sus anal bum party.”)
  • Evoke emotion: Hit them right in the feels! Humans are social and emotional creatures, so appeal to their emotions to relate to them. An emotional appeal can catch the attention of your audience and encourage them to share your content with their peers. Emotional appeals can be sad, happy, nostalgic or even witty. Who can forget when Make-A-Wish teamed up with the Batman to grant a little boy’s dream of being Batman? The event received massive media coverage highlighted by the hashtag #SFBatKid generating positive buzz for Make-A-Wish and the Batman trilogy.
  • Comment on trending topics: While it will not necessarily boost your brand awareness, it will help you to engage your audience. Since trending topics are the hot topics of the day and are updated in real time, it allows you to discuss topics that are relevant NOW! Engaging in a pertinent conversation with your followers helps strengthen your online relationship.
  • Know your audience: When you start using Twitter, establish your brand identity. Are you strictly professional? Are you educational? Are you funny? Will you make sarcastic comments? Once you establish your identity, remain consistent. Being funny and clever can be ideal if the tone is appropriate and consistent with your brand.

Don’t:

  • Use unfamiliar words: if your audience doesn’t know what you’re talking about, they won’t engage with it.
  • Use over 10 characters: Avoid using too many characters in a hashtag. Not only does this keep the character limit under control, but it also prevents wordiness. #toomanycharactersareunnecessaryanddifficultotread
  • Start a hashtag with a number: This is weird, but it might be a throwback to the original use of the # sign in phone numbers. If you start a hashtag with a number it will not trend on Twitter. However, you can include numbers in a hashtag if the numbers follow a letter. If you want to use a number in your hashtag, you have to get creative.
  • Hashtag everything: It can be tempting, especially at the beginning of your social media marketing journey. It’s understandable to want to cover as many topics as possible to increase engagement. However, too many hashtags can be overwhelming for your audience. Have you ever tried to have three different conversations at the same time? Using too many hashtags is the same thing.
  • Start Twitter fights: While it’s okay to be sassy on Twitter, especially if your brand image is fun and quirky. However, you do not want to start a hashtag that may be perceived as rude or insensitive.
  • Be controversial: There are certain controversial topics that you may not want to associate with your brand. For example, you may not want to engage in a political hashtag unless your brand has been consistently outspoken about the issue in the past. Discussing political topics may disengage your audience and turn them off from your Twitter.

#HappyBirthday: Celebrating the Hashtag’s 10 Year Reign on Social Media

Happy 10th birthday, hashtags! The history of the hashtag has come a long way. From starting a conversation with your followers to promoting an event, hashtags have revolutionized social media. Here at Post Launch, we know the importance of good trending hashtags. Contact us to see how we can help with your hashtags and all your Twitter marketing needs!

Post Launch
Post Launch
Post Launch is a whiz-bang digital marketing firm located in Las Vegas. We offer the latest cutting-edge solutions in web presence marketing.

1 Comment

  1. My favorite Hashtag pop culture moment was the SNL – Grow-A-Guy clip…Look it up on YouTube.

    “why do we even need a hashtag?”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDkCiQ-z5O0 so funny!

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