Significance of Hashtags

Hashtags have become synonymous with social networking. The creator of hashtags explains why he didn't patent it. An effective method to contextualize and group online content, hashtags have been used by numerous social media like Twitter, Tumblr and more recently, Facebook. It is indeed noteworthy that the seemingly tedious task of categorizing content can be done by entering a solitary character: '#'.

Hashtags are simply a combination of characters preceded by a hash symbol. If a hashtags gains sufficient popularity it becomes a 'trend' and attracts a greater number of users to participate in the discussion using the hashtag. It cannot be controlled by a user or a group of users nor can it be retired from public usage, thus offering it a semblance of immortality.

Read 9 steps for a successful hashtag.

The origin of the humble hashtag can be traced back to its use in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) networks, an archaic platform used for live Internet text messaging i.e. chatting. It was relatively unknown till a Nate Ritter began using the same in his Twitter posts to report on the 2007 Californian Wildfires. Its reemergence was confirmed in July 1, 2009 when Twitter began to hyperlink all hashtags to Twitter search results of the hashtagged word.

The use of hashtags has also proliferated into the outside world with its extensive use of the '#OccupyWallStreet' and the '#LibyaFeb17' hashtags to promote discussions and organize protests. It has also been used by corporations as a promotional tool. However, it cannot be assumed that the promotion would be positive. McDonald's was a recipient of complaints about its customer service as a result of the creation of '#McDStories' hashtag.

With its introduction in Facebook, hashtags will thrust upon the casual internet users. While this does unveil a potentially exciting concept of real-time conversations to its users, it also provides a convenient tool for advertisers to identify its potential customers. However, its popularity might not reach the same heights as Twitter hashtags due its additional emphasis on privacy of its users. How would Facebook react to these limitations? #letswaitandsee

Picture Credits: www.creativeeducation.co.uk
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