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The History of the Hashtag: How One Symbol Changed How We Use Social Media

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Although first used in the 1970’s and 80’s for computer programming language, the hashtag symbol didn’t really make its breakthrough into our daily lives until over 35 years later.

Yes, that’s right the hashtag as we know it was first brought to Twitter in 2007 on August 23rd by Chris Messina. Before that, it was used on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) to label groups and topics that were available across the entire network.

When the platform first launched, Twitter was seen as a free for all with many seeing content they didn’t really care to see. Spotting an opportunity, Chris Messina decided to use a hashtag on the platform to filter content. A SanDiegoFire hashtag was being used on Flickr (throwback to the early 2000 social days!) and Messina encouraged a California resident to do the same on Twitter, by using the hashtag on all his relevant tweets about the fires. Soon enough, tweets were being used to group relevant content and in 2009, Twitter embraced the symbol and introduced the search tool in order find relevant hashtags, and a year later it introduced the Trending Topics section.

The rest, as they say, is history and now you will find that almost all major social media platforms have some sort of functionality with the hashtag.

So how can you use the hashtag on your channels to it’s full potential?

Twitter

Thanks to Messina and his forward thinking of grouping content, hashtags are no longer just a way of grouping content; they have no become an ingrained and indispensable tool on the app. Hashtags spark conversation, increase impressions on posts and to categorises content so users can see what they want to see through a simple search.

Instagram

Following on from the success of Twitter, Instagram created its platform with hashtags as a main focus. When used in a caption, posts appear on a dedicated page for each individual hashtag used and it’s the same for stories too which is why Instagram is a great app for building a community, and the reason it’s the predominant app for influencers. With a simple hashtag, influencers and brands can reach the people who are most interested in their offering.

In a similar way to how you can follow an account on Instagram, not many people know you can actually follow a hashtag too so you can be the first to see new posts featuring that hashtag. This is great for those interested in a particular industry to have the content they want to see directly available.  

Facebook

Facebook hasn’t quite grasped the brilliance of hashtags on its platform as much as the others. Those wanting to hashtag on Facebook will need to ensure their posts are set to public in order to actually be seen by new people, something that not many people want to see. Hashtags on this platform are most commonly used in private groups, allowing content to be grouped by theme or topic and easily filtered by members of the group.

LinkedIn

Whilst hashtags aren’t as emphasized on LinkedIn, they do work the same as other social media platforms by increasing the reach of your posts and putting them to people outside of your network. Using hashtags on LinkedIn is a great way of increasing brand awareness as well as finding connections in the same industry as yours.

When they’re not busy hashtagging away on their recent posts, our Social Media team have the expertise needed to ensure your social strategy is #successful. Get in touch with them today.