# is having a moment.
longer just a pound or number sign, itís been born
again on Twitter as a way to link tweets of the same
topic or add a quick quip.
a shiny new Internet name ó hashtag ó itís jumped
into all kinds of nondigital places. There are hashtags
on billboards, on television, knitted into sweaters at
Target. Hashtag chatter has gotten so out of control
that itís even been lampooned on late-night TV by the
likes of Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon.
this were Twitter you might say: #Hashtags everywhere!
taken on this strange cultural icon position," said
Chris Messina, the Twitter user from California credited
with launching the social media hashtag in a tweet back
in 2007. "I just kind of sit back in awe and love
the way this idea has taken off."
if youíve never been on Twitter, the ubiquitous
hashtag aims to lure you to a broader digital
conversation. Words or phrases prefaced by a
"#" turn into hyperlinks connecting that
comment to others with the same hashtagged word or
have figured this out, and thatís part of why itís
plastered on every type of ad. People debate the best
ways to use them ó the line between entertaining and
annoying is razor thin ó but thereís little doubt
they are driving conversation.
the hashtagís prevalence is a bit of a happy digital
who was trying to follow a Twitter discussion of a
conference called BarCamp, offered this suggestion in a
tweet in August 2007: "how do you feel about using
# (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp (msgs)?"
figured that using the # before words or phrases would
add context to tweets and make them easier to search and
sort on Twitter. It took a while to catch on, but he and
other enthusiasts kept at it.
breakthrough came during wildfires in Southern
California, when people started using #sandiegofire when
tweeting about the disaster. Political hashtags came
next, Messina said, and somewhere along the way it
turned into a parenthetical commentary on a comment.
hashtag spread across multiple networks ó Instagram,
Vine, Pinterest, Tumblr and, in 2013, to Facebook. The
witty quips even seeped into speech, especially among
people started tweeting while watching television, the
hashtag started popping up on that screen, too.
shows such as ABCís political drama
"Scandal," following hashtags on social media
can be as riveting as the showís plot lines. Cast
members live-tweet during the show with the hashtag #askscandal,
and each episode ends with a hashtag for fans to use if
they want to discuss it further online. Reality show
"The Voice" lets viewers vote to save
competitors from elimination by tweeting with the
than half of the 2013 Super Bowl ads featured a hashtag,
trying to entice television viewers into online
conversations about the products, according to a survey
by online ad agency RadiumOne.
presence of those hashtags on the television screen wonít
drive every viewer to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram,
but it connects that digital chatter with the
mainstream, said Lisa Grimm, director of public
relations and emerging media at Space150.
digital language is becoming fluent" among people
outside social media, she said.
growing hashtag habit can also be fun. Grimm likes to
use them to tag videos of her dog playing with a stick
ó #sticktainment ó and to add a smile or wink to her
tweets. She added #batseyelashes to a tweet request to a
some reason, putting a hashtag in front of a phrase or a
word makes it much better," Grimm said. "Itís
like the Ďdudeí or lingo of previous
like any slang, it can go too far, and the line between
entertaining and annoying is sometimes hard to spot. Tim
Johnson, of St. Cloud, Minn., who has come across such
oddball hashtags as #redwhitebluejello, despises
hashtags that arenít searchable.
I click on it, I should get more tweets that talk about
something similar," he said. If not? "I just
shrug my shoulders and roll my eyes at it."
thinks of hashtags as a new kind of URL. They donít
come with instructions, but people have learned to go
online and search for them.
have latched on to that idea, and thatís a big reason
the symbol is now plastered all over. Theyíre hoping a
hashtag on a billboard might prompt someone to look it
up on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook.
social networks know this, and have used hashtags to
measure buzz around a topic and sell related ads. The TV
networks have learned that the volume of tweets about a
show can affect its Nielsen ratings.
the increased adoption of the hashtag, for marketing or
otherwise, gives people on social media a direct
connection to conversations with others about mutual
interests, products and events.
Shoutz, senior publicist at Lola Red PR, tuned into his
Twitter feed recently while watching the American Music
Awards. There, he found a fast-moving live critique of
the show, from the performances to the fashion. It gave
him another reason to stay glued to the show.
fun to just know other people are out there watching the
same things that youíre watching," he said.
Nicole Harrison, owner of social media agency Social
Nicole, hashtags are also a way to meet people in real
life. For instance, before a family trip to watch a
space shuttle launch, she connected via Twitter with
other space enthusiasts chatting on the hashtags #nasatweetup
youíre using social media, itís not about being
distant, itís about actually connecting with
people," Harrison said. "(The hashtag) helped
broaden the conversation."
work for a little punctuation mark.