5 Things You Might Not Know About #Hashtags

The hashtag symbol has entered the mainstream over the past few years, driven in large part by the social media platform Twitter and, to a lesser but still significant extent, Instagram and Facebook. It is now used as a way to organize social media conversations, as well as countless marketing efforts. Here are 5 things you may not have known about the hashtag.

1. The hashtag was invented by a Google employee

Former Google employee Chris Messina invented the hashtag back in 2007. Even though Twitter executives originally described the concept as “too nerdy”, it eventually caught fire and is now used around the world for news events, topical conversations, and marketing campaigns.

The first hashtag, written by Chris Messina, was used in a Tweet that said “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”

Nestle jumped on the hashtag bandwagon fairly quickly. Nestlé’s candy brand KitKat uses the hashtag #haveabreak in order to create a conversation around their brand. They consistently use it on all their social sites and have used the tagline in several of their marketing contest and campaigns. Consumers are familiar with this tagline and use the hashtag to communicate and engage with the KitKat community.

2. Hashtags have changed the landscape of Digital Marketing

Hashtags have had a major impact on the way marketing campaigns are organized. Organic (or non-paid) hashtags can be difficult to take over, but companies who are able to do so can make their content “go viral”. The practice of using hashtags has taken over digital marketing campaigns, and it is estimated that more than 97% of companies who used Twitter in Q4 2013 used hashtags at least once.

3. Hashtags are becoming their own language

Hashtags have become an essential and fully integrated part of the digital lexicon, and have in many ways become their own sublanguage. Hashtags are not only used for organizing conversations, they have become creative expressions and sayings in their own right. Instead of writing out a full statement or expressing to someone how you feel, the use of hashtags shortens the message and becomes an emoticon of sorts. Instead of saying “I miss you” someone might write #missingyou. Often hashtags are so obscure their primary function of connecting conversations become broken and instead become satirical.

4. The hashtag had a “life” before it was actually a hashtag

Many Millennials might be too young to remember this, but the hashtag symbol wasn’t always known by that name. The “pound” symbol dates back to Ancient Rome and was originally used for a number of different purposes, including as an abbreviation for the word “pound” (as in weight). Fast forward to 1963 where the invention of the touchtone phone led the sign being used as a separator for automated calling systems. In a more unconventional way the hashtag is used in chess to represent a move that results in a checkmate. When proofreading the symbols means a space should be inserted.

5. Hashtag rap is a real thing

Yes, believe it or not hashtag rap is a real thing, and actually is based on a long-standing style of rap. In spoken rap, there is sometimes a one-liner in which the rapper says a metaphor or simile, pauses, and then completes the statement without using the words “like” or “as”. In hashtag rap, the pause is replaced by a hashtag. The actual term hashtag rap was coined by none-other than Kanye West himself, as he also self-proclaimed that he invented the hashtag rap style all together back in 2007. Even though we love when Kanye West makes grandiose statements and pumps up his ego a bit more, his statement of being the mastermind of the hashtag rap is most likely false. The rap style is said to be around since the early 2000’s.