Twitter is a linguistic marketplace in which the process of “self-branding and micro-celebrity depend on visibility as a means of increasing social and economic gain” (Marwick, Boyd, 2011). The mircoblogging site Twitter lets people post quick 140-character updates, or ‘tweets’. to a network of followers. Twitter asks participants ‘What’s happening?’ resulting in a constantly-updated stream of short messages ranging from the mundane to breaking news, shared links, and thoughts on life. Hashtags are a potent resource within this system for promoting the visibility of a Twitter update.
Thanks to Twitter, the hashtag has become an important linguistic shortcut. But while everyone from Robin Thicke to Beyoncé has used the symbol as part of their art, only a few have truly taken advantage of its culture-jamming possibilities. Twitter came on the scene in 2006, but the “art of hashtagging didn’t make its worldwide debut until 2009” (Oyarce, n.d.). Consumers were instantly #hooked, and public relations specialists and marketers now consider hashtags with every post they write for clients. I have blogged before about the convergence between TV and Social Media. With Television becoming increasingly an interactive medium for key events, or sports events like the Olympics and the Super Bowl, hashtags allow anyone with a Twitter account to take part in a universal conversation about a group topic.
While hashtagging is quite a genius mechanism for getting users from all over the world to find your content, it also can become quite annoying when your comment, tweet, or Facebook post is entirely made up of hashtags. And when the hashtag isn’t relevant to the content of the post, it’s even more irritating.
I was recently looking on Instagram for pictures of a specific dog breed, #BorderCollie. I expected my search to yield photos of cute, furry little canines. Instead, I found myself staring at multiple selfies. I was puzzled and my only thought was, ‘This is not what I wanted.’
I can appreciate the benefits of hashtagging; gaining high-quality followers, connecting with relevant influences and prospectors, and creating a viral hashtag to multiply the power of your campaign. However, I for one am not a hashtag user and on the rare occasion I implement a sneaky hashtag it’s usually done ironically. So does the hashtag rein supreme? Or are there more people out there like me who sabotage the success of it.
Marwick, A. Boyd, D. 2011. “To Be and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter”.Available from: http://www.tiara.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/marwick_boyd_to_see_and_be_seen.pdf [n.d. 2011]
Oyarce, S. n.d. “Social Media: The Art of #Hashtagging”. Available from: <http://www.etchedcomm.com/etched-blog/social-media-the-art-of-hashtagging> [n.d.]