By Christina Williamson, Marketing Communications Coordinator
The humble hashtag has certainly come a long way since its retro beginnings in the 1970’s. The symbol was originally used in Information Technology to highlight special meanings and to denote immediate address mode in the assembly language of the PDP-11 (which is geek-speak for what you and I might call “machine language”).
Today, the hashtag spends most of its time on social media, where it functions as a kind of ad hoc, unmoderated discussion forum. By simply attaching a hashtag to the beginning of any word or combination of characters, #heypresto – you can create a ‘tag’. If you are really clever (perhaps a little lucky too), and manage to successfully promote your hashtag to the world, then you will achieve the hashtag holy grail of ‘trending’.
This means you have attracted more social media users with the brilliant use of your hashtagging skills. These users have hopped on board with your discussion or statement, and added in their own comments, thoughts and feelings, and have probably re-shared your message over and over, #genius.
The hashtag spends a lot of its time hanging out on Twitter. Their relationship started way back in 2007 where they were first spotted together with #sandiegofire, which was used to inform people worldwide about the California bushfires. Their friendship continues to be extremely popular today thanks the hashtag’s various uses, which include being a search tool, the creator of communities, a highlighter of an opinion or thought, and a way to deliver a simple message to the world.
Hashtags have also become popular with Instagram, and more recently on Facebook. Facebook finally jumped on the hashtag bandwagon last year when it announced it would introduce them to make it easier for users to search for content. It also means that there will now be greater integration between the ‘big three’ (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook), as users can now see, react and share a hashtag that originates in any one of these social media sites without limitations.
So what about the future of hashtags, I hear you ask? Well it seems that they aren’t going anywhere soon. Currently, there are 18 huge online platforms that support them including Google+, YouTube, Kickstarter and Tumblr. Global companies like Amazon still see a lot of potential with this little symbol, with plans to give customers the option to buy using Twitter hashtags, namely #amazonbasket. Even a new social phenomenon coined “hashtag activism” has emerged from campaigns such as #nomakeupselfie and #bringbackourgirls, which have helped many fight and support a cause globally through social media.
It appears that the hashtag is definitely here to stay for awhile, thanks to its ability to change and evolve with today’s ever growing social media world #justthebeginning.