The # has been labeled many names, including the math sign, pound sign, and hashtag. But what are the origins of its wide use? Originally it was used in IT to highlight a special meaning, C (programming language) for special keywords, and within Internet Relay Chat networks to label groups and topics. Today, the hashtag has become a standard symbol within social media platforms, and more specifically, Twitter.
The Value of #’s
On Twitter, hashtags (#) simply label tweets (a message of 140 character) related to a specific topic (e.g. Artificial Intelligence). For example, say your American clothing company grew exceptionally via Inbound Marketing and it was time to open a second office internationally. You decide it’s best to open the second office in Seoul, South Korea. Once that’s set, you go on Twitter and tweet: “We’re glad to announce our first international office will be in #Seoul by Summer 2016″.
This simple tweet not only informs your followers, but branches into a niche discussion. You’re able to reach a new pool of users by being relative to the common topic: #Seoul. Users who are interested in the current discussions regarding #Seoul can now see your post and engage if they choose to. So, as an example, you receive a tweet from a user stating “Finally, an American clothing shop in #Seoul! Excited!”. Likewise, you can create your own # for your brand. Do keep in mind that adding over two #’s will decrease the tweet engagement, so keep it between one and two #’s within a tweet.
As ridiculous as hashtags might seem to marketing veterans who remember a time before Twitter and Facebook, the younger generation and potential customers/clients don’t. To them, using hashtags is as natural and common as typing their query into the search box. — Steve Cooper | Contributor at Forbes
The Popularity & History of #’s
Essentially, the hashtag became popular due to being able to create a subset of a niche topic within a general message (e.g. “I’m traveling the U.S., I wonder how #Colorado will be like!”). The concept of # became popularised by Twitter users, in which Twitter utilized by hyperlinking #’s so users can directly go to the specific topic. The # has also extended to other social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Google+. Its easy and effective; who would’ve known that a simple # behind a word could double your engagement and bring more traffic than without?