Hashtag: short, snappy, sassy
A hashtag is a word or phrase used on many social networks. It consists of the hash character “#” – sometimes known as the “number sign” or, in North America, “pound sign” – followed by a text-based identifying label. Hashtags are especially associated with Twitter, where they are a key part of navigation and allow users to find tweets that correspond to their interests. The text after a hashtag usually cannot contain spaces, so where multiple words are used “camel case” is sometimes employed, ie “#GreatService” rather than “#Greatservice”. Some microblogging services also allow the use of hashtags.
The # symbol had a number of uses in the early days of computing, such as denoting certain keywords in the C programming language. In the late 1980s, it began to be used within Internet Relay Chat networks to denote topics and groups that were available to everyone on a network, regardless of the server they were using. This use in IRC inspired users of the fledgling Twitter service in 2007, although the practice did not become universal until around 2009. At this point, Twitter recognized hashtags’ importance and began to hyperlink them to searches for the word or phrase in question.
Hashtags can be powerful marketing tools, given the very large audience available on Twitter. The use of a memorable hashtag as part of a well-targeted campaign can pick up momentum fast and offer a very cost-effective way of reaching large numbers of people. Given Twitter’s culture of short, snappy conversations, hashtags tend to work better when kept simple yet distinctive. Using too many hashtags in one tweet tends to be received badly by users, while another risk is that once “in the wild”, how a hashtag is used cannot be easily controlled by the organization which created it.