So what is a hashtag anyways?

The sign commonly known as the pound or number sign is now one of the most popular symbols on social media. The hashtag originated on Twitter, but has moved to Instagram, Vine, and other social media platforms, and is represented by the “#” symbol with words following. It’s used regularly, but many users aren’t aware of what the symbol even means or does. So, what is a hashtag?

The official definition of the hashtag taken from Dictionary.com consists of: “a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it.” To put it simply, hashtags help users locate tweets or posts of similar topics.

A great example to illustrate this is the use of hashtags by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Fans are encouraged at each game to take photos and then post them on social media using the hashtag “#ScoreboardPix.” By searching this hashtag, all posts can be viewed in one long list, as shown below on Instagram:

The Pirates use this to choose photos to post on the scoreboard screen, but this hashtag also allows fans to view photos posted by other people at the games. A collection of photos from one event can be viewed together and accessed by millions on social media, all by the use of the powerful little hashtag symbol.

The use of a hashtag is unlimited and goes far beyond sports events. Other uses include:

  • Focusing on a topic in an online discussion, such as the use of #SmallBiz by professionals chatting about small businesses
  • Representing an entire business slogan, such as #quickerpickeruper for Bounty paper towels
  • Responding to a tragic event, such as #OneBoston to bring people together after theBoston Marathon bombing
  • Sharing comments about a televised event, such as #grammys
  • Simply bringing together posts about a common interest, such as #running

The amount of connection between people all over the world because of social media is unbelievable, and the hashtag helps to narrow this information down and engage users and customers further. Once understood, the hashtag really is a small symbol with huge potential.

(For a more detailed explanation of hashtags, refer to SnapRetail’s The Beginner’s Guide to Hashtags here)