By Andi Barton
In the nature of friendly competition, social networks are always finding ways to mimic competing networks' features. More and more we are seeing overlap and cross-network similarities. Overall, one features seems to have made the biggest social splash over the years: #hashtags. The presence of hashtags have evolved into one of the most popular content features across many social networks. Hashtags have grown into such a norm in conversation and content that it's hard to imagine the socialverse before they existed.
Let's see where it all began, and where we'll see the hashtag continuing on to take over the world:
#Evolution of the Hashtag
The hashtag was first used on Twitter in August 2007, only a brief year and a half after Twitter's launch in the spring of 2006. Its launch was intended as a way to curate conversations, but it grew into so much more. Trending topics, Twitter chats, promoted trends, and local "discover" sections are various features that became core Twitter elements thanks to the hashtag.
My challenge to you: attempt to go about your day-to-day routine and avoid seeing a hashtag once. I would bet it is near impossible. Aside from directly on social networks themselves, hashtag marketing will reach you in the most unexpected fashions--from TV shows, to sporting events, to print advertising, to billboards.
Not only has the hashtag grown to dominate the Twitter space, it has already elicited similar success on other networks. The Instagram hashtag allows for similar organization and tracking for images. The terms #foodporn and #throwbackbackthursday are recognizable trends that saw their origin through Instagram trends. The trending topic translation on Instagram is referred to as "The Popuar Page" where the highest traffic and highest engagement images are curated.
Although Pinterest's redesign has recently removed hashtag-ing capabilities, this network implement similar strategies for tracking success as well.
#Brilliance of the Hashtag
The beauty of hashtags is simple: the fact that they are simple! Hashtags are a short, condensed way to get your message across and find the right conversation quickly. Social media networks like Twitter and Instagram have leveraged the short attention span of modern life.
#WhatsNext For Hashtags
It was only a matter of time before Facebook began looking into the idea of hashtags on its network. We've seen Twitter-like incorporation through the Facebook ticker with more real-time,brief updates separated out from the News Feed. Now there's been an announcement for the possibility of hashtags on Facebook. Hashtags have already been popping up in Facebook content, but in an informal way to merely mimic the style of conversation already adopted on Twitter. Facebook's intention now is to allow hashtags to track topics, allowing for curated content and greater ease in finding relevant posts or events. With compiled content by topic and hashtag, brands will be able to tap further into the conversations on Facebook that are relevant and timely. Through advanced analytics platforms, conversations are trackable--through hahstags, the ease of discovering these conversations will be easier and public.
Flickr announced as well that they'll be incorporating hashtags into their iOS app. It may only be a small start to find the feature on their iPhone capabilities, but it's only a matter of time before the feature is built out further into websites and additional apps.
With the great simplicity and ease of implementing, it's hard to imagine that the hashtag will be going away any time soon.
Where do you expect the #hashtag to pop up next? Share your thoughts in the comments below!