The first twitter hashtag was introduced just over six years ago on August 23, 2007. Oh, how the hashtag has grown and has become a critical element of engagement for brands to promote participation.
Hashtags had been around before 2007. IRC used them to mark topics and groups that were available across the entire network. So when #barcamp used it in 2007, it was with the same idea: find a way to span the network and quickly find something. Twitter itself caught on in 2009 when they started hyperlinking all hashtags to instantly search on that tag.
Twitter’s first hashtag
Hashtags can be used for, well, everything. They can create a way to classify posts, functioning as metatags. They are often used to end a post with a side comment or sarcastic twist. But hashtags are most powerful when they facilitate participation, joining strangers together around a central idea, or amplifying an event to a much broader audience.
Spanning the Social Networks
The recent Hood to Coast relay demonstrates how an event can span across several social networks. Using the NIKE running app, you can comment on a Facebook post and the runner’s phone will chirp as you root them on. Friends are checking in at rural high schools at the foot of the Coast Range. Instagram was a popular choice to capture the gorgeous sunrise at the chilly start at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. And there were countless Vines of teammates hollering at runners as they sprinted downhill for the first four miles of the race (ouch!).
And yet, just by participants dropping an #htc13 hashtag on their posts, Hood To Coast teams enabled their posts to be part of a shared conversation online. Postano tied all this together with a social hub that made it easy to follow the race on mobile devices and on the web at home or at work. At Postano’s office in Portland, the social command center wall tracked all the action across 8 large HD displays. Seeing the events unfold with realtime media updates throughout the day from multiple perspectives and teams generated a whole new real-time news experience that focused more on mood and sentiment.
Strengthen the Brand
Taglines make great hashtags. NIKE’s mantra hashtag #skateeverydamnday is brilliant and evocative. Originally launched as part of a campaign in the summer of 2012, it continued to expand building a life of its own. Over a million Tweets and Instagram posts have been tagged with this hashtag and has been translated into many languages for use around the world. It stands for something and connects so many strangers with a similar core believe together.
A great tagline interpreted through a hashtag can be inspiring. Questions, statements, and dares are all fair game to get people participating.
An Invitation to Participate
In interior design, people use “mood boards” to help guide their design choices. By putting together different photos, wall papers, colors, furniture, lights, plants, and textures, you get a sense of what the room can be. With hashtag campaigns, brands can create a “mood board” around ideas. Kenneth Cole, with its 30 Years Bold campaign, has recently launched an experience around three separate but related ideas, #BoldFashion, #BoldExperience, and #BoldStatements.
As part of this campaign, Kenneth Cole is asking fans to tag posts via Twitter and Instagram leveraging one of these hashtags. Winners will be chosen and prizes given to the posts that best exemplify these ideas. Not only are each of the Postano boards unique for each idea, so are the prizes.
Postano can pull together different posts leveraging a common hashtag for a brand or an event. It can even pull together posts not featuring a hashtag and blend them into the board. It can show people the overall mood and look in ways that simple counting posts and likes cannot. (And since you have incredibly powerful moderation tools with Postano, you can shape the mood to something that fits with your goals.)
The hashtag spans across social networks, and lets you show people a different perspective of a movement or a meme. That, in turn, can reinforce your brand or take it to new places. #cool.