Monday, June 24, 2013

Finally, Hashtags are mainstream!

Hashtag Twitter Facebook image for Bright Sparks blog Sandeep Manudhane SM
The humble hashtag
Say what you may, but going mainstream sounds hollow unless the biggest of them endorses you. And Facebook has done the humble Hashtag the favour finally. The “#” is now officially the disparate-content-puller-aggregator on the world’s biggest social media platform also, in addition to the hugely addictive Twitter.

So what is this Hashtag (hashtag from here on), what does it do, and why the fuss?

Many years ago (six is many in internet lingo!), open source and open standards advocate Chris Messina introduced the hashtag to Twitter, thereby transforming it into the fast moving yet stable content reference and sharing microblog we know it today. What would Twitter be without the humble # that so easily helps us look up any topic we wish to, in real time?

Perhaps it is this very ease of use that has finally prompted Facebook to accord the distinguished “officially approved” status to the hashtag. On its official blog, Facebook calls the hashtag feature the first step of “a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people, and topics.”

This is a nicely couched way of saying – “Hey, we seem to have missed out on a great simple tool to collect separated information on same topic. Let’s catch it from hereon!”

Why are hashtags so cool?

Hashtags are perhaps the easiest way to read the BIG picture on a topic, rather than views of only those you are connected to.

Suppose you are on Twitter (or Pinterest, or Tumblr) and you follow a lot of people. Suddenly, there’s this massive tragedy in Uttarakhand (India) and you want to read only about that. So what to do? Not everyone you follow may tweet about it, or may not be in a position to tweet about it. Enter hashtag #. All that a user (any user) on Twitter needs to do is put a #UttarakhandTragedy along with any tweet related to the tragedy, and bingo! It will appear in real-time global search on when anyone searches for it. So all tweets (from any user in the world) using this hashtag (#UttarakhandTragedy) will get aggregated into one useful, readable stream, on real-time basis! This is very cool indeed. Of course, multiple users may start (initiate) multiple hashtags, and only one of them may catch on finally.

So hashtags are a great way to not follow people but relevant tweets from all people around the world. This makes them a really useful tool for real-time news and information gathering. And since a large number of people update videos and audios as well, it has a multimedia impact too.

The reason Facebook is getting the hashtag now (that’s late to many users) is that it already is (was) happy with the EdgeRank algorithm it uses to rank posts in users’ news feeds. The algorithm works like this: EdgeRank = the sum of Edges, each Edge is made up of Affinity, Weight, and Time Decay. To know more, go to  Do not be fooled into believing that these # are already in use on Facebook; they are merely used by people who like them, or want to make a point. Functionality till now was zero. Not any more! We can expect Trending Topics just like Twitter on FB also. And much more.

So go ahead and enjoy a new world of information insight on Facebook. Used properly, they can add a lot of meaning to social interactions.

For marketers, remember the golden rules for creating and using hashtags: Keep them short and simple (too long and no one can remember them), Keep them relevant to users’ concerns (get abstruse and it’s all over), Beware of negative stories (#McDStories is one horror that instantly comes to mind), Monitor them carefully (you can feed relevant stuff regularly), and Don’t make too many of them (like friends, truly valuable hashtags are few).

Thanks for reading, and have a good day!

A comprehensive, topic-wise and useful collection of my various posts and answers can be found here. Enjoy.


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Shoaib Qureshi said...

Dear Sir, this was an excellent blog introducing people to the world of hashtags. Look forward to similar posts that simplifies the understanding of such trending terms. Thanks.

Unknown said...

The blog introduces us to the uses of the humble #.For many years,# remained very silent until open source and open standards advocate Chris Messina put it on Twitter for users to navigate easily and search for any topic they want to know.It has then become something useful for real time global conversation.This achievement of # inspired many blogger to use it.Earlier,people only on microblogging sites such as Twitter, Instagram,Tumblr,etc were aware of this symbol. Eventually,people made this # a part of their writing and used it everywhere they want to comment or post.This made social networking site like Facebook include #.
# provides a means to group messages.#s are mostly used as unmoderated ad-hoc discussion forums; any combination of characters led by a hash symbol is a #, and any #, if promoted by enough individuals, can trend and attract more individual users to discussion using the #. On Twitter, when a # becomes extremely popular, it will appear in the Trending Topics area of a user's homepage. The trending topics can be organized . #s are neither registered nor controlled by any one user or group of users, and neither can they be retired from public usage, meaning that #s can be used in theoretical perpetuity depending upon the longevity of the word or set of characters in a written language. They also do not contain any set definitions, meaning that a single # can be used for any number of purposes as espoused by those who make use of them.
These many advantages of # made FB include it.This feature has enormous power to attract users and can convert their aspirations to brevity.The user now on FB also can get a BIG picture of any topic of their demand. If used properly,this can add a lot of meaning to social interactions.
-Prashant Tripathi

vivek pathak said...

the topic was so much unexpected but gave a large pack of knowledge including history and present uses of hashtags with significant methods to let know how to use. It also let me understand the value of hashtags in mainstream activities & other parts also like those edge rank methods used by fb. learning more with this blog, having known the best of contents.

Unknown said...

it is amazing that how a simple symbol that we almost see in our daily life can be use in many ways.
it shows us that every thing even a small common symbol have their importance. so respect all the things to which you come in contact with.
SM SIR have done a great job by given us a great lesson

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful topic and not an expected one as no one takes up this topic.It tells us about the history of hashtags and also the present use of it in Twitter.
---Parth Saraf

Unknown said...

hashtag is such a very useful content. many years ago ,advocate Chris Messi introduced yhe hashtag to twitter.with the help of this content we can easily tweet our friends.hashtag basically the mainy feild which can we write the various way like,
* c#
* #Sweeptakes
* #about
* # win
* # contest
* #giveaway
basically hashtag maens that A way of tracking topic on twitter ,its an acronym abberiviation or slang world that is explained above where the hashtag.

thanks Sm sir
Vaishali soni

Unknown said...

Sudhanshu tiwari.

Hashtag became a prominent part of the online atmosphere.more and more social media sites have allowed for the categorizing program known as hashtag. hashtag are used to allow to tag post pictures our even video with a hash symbol. because hashtag are so new so we are still capable of great innovation while hashtag and there use in business have began to be utilized. there are still landless possibilities to what can be done with them. this is the most exiting realm of this online world. I think after that most of ecommerce company's like Flipkart ,Amazon also using hashtage as a categorizing program.