Strangely enough, it’s not only newbies who want to read a bit more about the #. It seems easy and obvious, but there are more unknowns and details than you might think behind this tiny symbol. I still hear people saying “What? It does that too? I had no idea.” or “You can actually find that?” and so on. It's basically a tool that helps you control (within limits) the constant flows of online information that somehow need to be harnessed by any innocent visitor.
That's why today, I’ll take a short walk through its history and slightly scratch the surface of the # on various social media platforms. Reading this could go hand in hand with some info about social marketing tools.
Very short history
Wikipedia makes it clear that the hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the number sign “#”. In the beginning, the # was just a telephone button, but it took # quite a few decades to become a social media hero. The hash symbol has been used since the 1970s, but it had meant different things in different periods of time since then. “Hashtag” is a relatively new word that finally made it to the Oxford English Dictionary only a couple of months ago. It is defined as a word or phrase preceded by a hash and used to identify messages relating to a specific topic (on social media web sites and applications).
Twitter and # are inseparable, as this is the first social media platform to ever use it. The first hashtag on Twitter was in 2007. Although it started here, the # has steadily spread to Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Google search, and not only. Most likely, more to come.
This is how it works: the symbol # is followed by a keyword(s)/phrase with no space in between. All tweets that contain that # will show in your search results. Thus, it helps categorize various topics on social media.
On Other Social Media Platforms
Instagram is the second most popular “# platform”. Apparently, there's no saturation point when it comes to hash-tagging. The more #s (we're talking more than 10 here), the more interactions.
On Facebook, the # has been used since last year, but it's still not very popular. Studies show that posts without # perform better than those with #. However, everything is fluid in the online, so better not give up on # on Facebook yet. Test it first in your own yard.
Based on content, on Google+, posts are automatically given hashtags. Of course, you can edit or simply add your own, AND also add them in comments too. So, great opportunities here.
Google has also built hashtags into its searches, leading to all the relevant hashtagged Google+ posts along the normal search results.
Good to know (fast forward):
Fact 1: Some people can be annoyed by the overuse of the #.
Fact 2: For other people the # can be highly helpful, especially for those doing research on social media or marketing their products and services.
Fact 3: The hashtag expands the reach of your tweet beyond just those who follow you. Just imagine the possibilities: anyone interested in a particular keyword or phrase will be able to reach you. You can double your online engagement with a couple of #. And that's massive for any ecommerce site.
Fact 4: Tweets with hashtags get two times more engagement than tweets without. Tweets with one or more hashtag are 55 % more likely to be retweeted (I know, we'll go into this soon).
The simple reason that it's so widespread should make you think that there's something worth considering behind it.