Evolution of the Hashtag

By Meredith Darling | @merdar The hashtag. That elusive little symbol found so often with popular topics and witty phrases. Twitter defines hashtags as "The # symbol... used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages." That organic creation is attributed to Chris Messina. In August 2007 he tweeted:

how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?

Things evolved from there. In July 2009, Twitter began hyperlinking hashtags and then in 2010 added trending topics to the homepage.

The original purpose of hashtags, as described in Messina's tweet, was to make it easier to find groups or conversational topics. Protesters of the 2009 Iranian presidential election started a "Twitter Revolution" by using hashtags to communicate with each other. Live events then began using it to encourage conversation and participation. And now, as with most social media marvels, the hashtag has taken on a life of its own.

While the hashtag still holds true to its original purpose of searchability, people have begun using hashtags for phrases you can never expect anyone to search for, besides maybe the writer. Then, the clever and extra long hashtag sayings began appearing on Facebook, emails, and now in public conversation:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIbnVGqYDJQ[/youtube]

It was almost 2 months into my life on Twitter before I used my first hashtag. Even then it was a while before I really caught on to the idea. Here is a list of what I have surmised to be the different ways a hashtag is used: 1. Conversation/topic - making it easier to find those with similar interests.Hashtags, Twitter, Social Media, Social Media Delivered 2. Live events - encourages participation.Hashtags, Twitter, Social Media, Social Media Delivered 3. Witty comment - usually at the end of a tweet.Hashtags, Twitter, Social Media, Social Media Delivered 4. Abuse- too many hashtags - Hashtags, Twitter, Social Media, Social Media Delivered 5. Completely inappropriately - See my previous blog for an example by Kenneth Cole himself.