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The Case of the #Hashtags

Thanks to Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon’s latest joint effort that showcased what a real face-to-face hashtag conversation sounds like, it made me realize how hashtags have changed the way we communicate.

The hashtag was born on Twitter as a means for organizing content. Invented by Chris Messina on Aug. 27, 2007, the first tweet with a hashtag read: “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”

According to Alexis Madrigal’s article in The Atlantic, two days later, Stowe Boyd, tweeted, “I support the hash tag convention,” and eventually, the space was taken out in the word (for all you AP Style and grammar buffs out there).

Today, social media channels like Instagram, Pintrest, Facebook, Google+ and others have adopted Messina’s invention, and hashtags have become an integral part of many people’s social media experiences.

The hashtag is used from everything to tagging certain groups (Justin Beiber’s #Beliebers and Twilight’s #Twihards) to major conferences and events (#Oscar2013) to trending topics (Charlie Sheen’s #winning and #tigerblood meltdown). We now even text and speak to one another in hashtags (which I’ve had the opportunity to personally experience with some of my friends).

With the use of hashtags becoming overwhelming, why should companies jump on the hashtag bandwagon? Hashtags help brands reach and engage with their target audiences. At NST, we manage many of our clients’ social media accounts and work to strategically leverage the hashtag to its full benefit. Here are a few of our expert recommendations:

  • Creating a custom hashtag: Brands that have created and adopted custom hashtags are more likely to have relevant new users join their conversations.
  • Spreading the word: A hashtag can help spread the word about sweepstakes, contests and promotions, and keeps your audience in the loop on daily activities. It’s easy to monitor and track these conversations, too.
  • Social Listening and Engagement: On the flip side, brands can use hashtags to stay updated with what their audience is talking about and interested in. This also allows them to better engage with consumers and their audience in a natural way, when appropriate.

Have you used hashtags to your benefit? Or are you one of the many that are guilty of #hashtag abuse? Tell us in a comment below or NST’s Facebook page.

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