The pound key (#). It was originally used to refer to a number, such as, “World’s #1 Dad,” or a #2 Pencil. However, one man transformed it into the hashtag, which has changed the social media realm and with it, the advertising industry.

Where Did It Come From And What Is Its Purpose?

His name is Chris Messina and his simple suggestion has changed the way millions, soon to be billions, of people interact with each other and the brands they use. On August 23rd, 2007, Messina suggested that Twitter use the pound key before short phrases that would filter content and create groups. This pound key phrase was later named the hashtag by Stowe Boyd.


Twitter Runs With It

In July of 2009, Twitter started to hyperlink hash-tagged phrases. By clicking on the hash-tag links Twitter users are shown people, tweets and photos that all used the same photos. To see an example click the following hashtag: #photography

On March 30th, 2010, Twitter announced it would put the top trending topics on the Twitter Homepage. The purpose of trending topics is to spread the most talked about topics, which can range from the death of a celebrity to a natural disaster.

Advertisers Caught On

It took a couple of years before advertisers began using hashtags in their commercials. The first Super Bowl commercial to implement a hashtag was Audi’s “Release The Hounds” commercial during the 2011 game. At the end of the 60 second commercial, a small portion of the screen read #ProgressIs. The message lasted no more than two seconds, however it was effective in gaining fan interaction that lasted longer than the 60 seconds Audi purchased.

After seeing Audi’s success, other companies started to include hashtags in their commercials. In Fact, 50% of the commercials during this during this year’s Super Bowl, between the San Francisco 49ners and the Baltimore Ravens included a hashtag. (To see a list of all 26 hashtags click here)

Facebook Joins The Action

On June 12th, 2013, Facebook announced that they would start implementing clickable hashtags, similar to what Twitter has been doing for four years. Why is Facebook switching from their philosophy of connecting you to your “friends,” to connecting you to the public? Mike Isaac points out the potential for advertising revenue related to hashtags:

“That demographic [viewers who use a smartphone or tablet while watching TV] is ripe with potential for seeding ads. Twitter, for instance, lets advertisers stick promoted tweets for their products in with those specific hashtag searches. So, if you’re a viewer watching an NFL game on the couch and search the hashtag #MondayNightFootball, for instance, that’s prime real estate for companies such as Frito-Lay or Budweiser to slot a promoted tweet right in there.”

Currently, Facebook’s hashtags are extremely limited. The major problem as of now is that Facebook hashtags are only on the web and not yet available to the mobile app. It is only a matter of time before Facebook expands the use of hashtags and when they do it will give advertisers another way to reach their fans in real time.

Late Night Hashtags

Jimmy Fallon has created a segment on his show, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, that utilizes hashtags to their fullest comedic potential. Prior to the show Fallon tweets out a hashtag prompting viewers to share a story or joke related to the hashtag. Usually the hashtags are trending across the United States, or even worldwide, within thirty minutes. The segment is called “Late Night Hashtags” and we have selected some of our favorite hashtags below: