Hashtag That

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Posted At: February 22, 2012 2:00 PM
by Katie Brazeal

It seems like just yesterday the world was talking in acronyms. As a result of instant messaging and the invention of text messaging, OMG, LOL or TTYL were “words” often found in the everyday speech of many people. Thankfully, those days are behind us (for the most part), but they did not make their exit without the arrival of a new Twitter-induced trend: the hashtag.

Beyond Twitter, it is not uncommon for someone to say “#(fill in the blank)” in text or even in speech. It is obviously current and can be quite humorous, but what weight does the hashtag really carry?

Twitter was first launched in 2006. It began a microblogging phenomenon, allowing users only 140 characters with which to express their thoughts. Twitter has become an obsession to say the least, but its users are not always aware of the possibilities available through it. While the site does allow for the opportunity to “tell the world” what a beautiful day it is, just how stressed you are, or that you ate a mediocre taco for lunch today, Twitter has more to offer by way of the hashtag.

As defined by Twitter, “The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.” While at its most basic level the hashtag can be used for a joke or pun, its potential does not end there.

Hashtagging a word or words on a public Twitter account makes it searchable to anyone, and the more a single hashtag is used, the greater the possibility it has of trending. “Trending” simply helps to organize the current most popular topics on Twitter. Users can then see what is trending based on location, from a larger city like New York to a smaller city such as Birmingham, Ala.

Not only have individual users indulged in Twitter, but Corporate America has sunk its teeth into the social media frenzy, as well. There is so much opportunity for the quick passage of information and communication with the public, and the hashtag, if used correctly, can assist in this endeavor.

Twitter and its hashtag have become quite the friend to public relations professionals. They have become a staple component of PR campaigns and crisis management, but in order to be successful, the hashtag must be well thought out. It needs to be simple enough to remember, general enough to pop up in searches, yet specific enough to avoid confusion.

The University of Alabama’s LessThanUThink campaign has had its own hashtag success with the use of #GetShaq2UA. Students ran a campaign using this hashtag last fall, and because of its overwhelming success, the university excitedly awaits Shaq’s arrival sometime this spring.

Although simple by nature, the hashtag has great communication power. Good word choice and proper promotion can get your topic trending.

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