The pound sign. The number sign. Tic-tac-toe board. The “#” symbol has gone by many names throughout its 50+ year tenure, admired from afar as an arbitrary button on antique touch tone phones. As useless as it has been since its humble beginnings, the hashtag has recently solidified itself in pop culture and social media as an interactive tool to microscopically view the vast, infinite regions of the internet.
When Chris Messina, a simple Twitter user, suggested in 2007 on the website: “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp (msg)”, the game was changed. Trends and news stories would skyrocket across the World Wide Web in record time, reaching audiences at the very moment that a story would break. It took a simple search of a hashtag to view its analytical results on engagement of fellow tweeters. Although Twitter founder Evan Williams thought it was too technical, he was quickly proven wrong as users found a way to create a more personal conversation on an impersonal platform.
Today, the hashtag ranks among social media professionals’ list of most religious symbols, right behind the holy cross and breadsticks. Marketers and advertisers intend to take advantage of this trend within a trend, as corny hashtags appear across every major television network as a plot twist strikes (ie. #WhoIsA, #OhNoJonSnow, #TrumpSomehowLeadsGOP).
A simple Instagram post proves the importance of the all-praised hashtag. With only just reaching double digits on Instagram, our account cannot be viewed as “Insta-famous,” the phrase self-coined by Instagrammers with 10+K followers on the app who live relatively normal lives but filter their lives with “Lo-Fi” or “Mayfair” or “Perpetua.” No one jumps at the chance to look at what a marketing firm does unless you’re creating provocative ads for Nike. However, the point is that we don’t pride ourselves in the number of followers we have, yet.
But with only 10+ followers on the platform, we turned over 60 likes on a single post. “But how?!” you ask, “I somehow skipped over the rest of this blog post so I have no idea how that could be possible!” One word: hashtags.
On top of simply being a perfectly edited and snapped picture taken by yours truly (#humblebrag) , this photo contains multiple hashtags that people across the country, NAY, the world would be interested in searching on the application. #Chicago, #WillisTower, #SearsTower, and #Business are all hashtags that garner interest among different groups of people. When people look them up, they see a colorful image that they then click on, enjoy so much, and go on to like it.
The most evident and important thing here is that knowing your audience is key. Understand what they want to see, show them exactly that, and engage with them afterward. These likes turned into several follows which grows that slowly moving presence and leads to better interactions down the road.
Similarly, though, it is necessary to mention that sometimes less is more. You don’t need 10,000 likes if only half of them care about your product or service, whether it be on a personal or professional account. Take the cut and market to the 5,000 who care because then you will have real relationships on a site that we sometimes try to sell something that isn’t truly there.