Written by Chloe Albrecht, sales assistant intern

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake illustrate the abuse of the hashtag in their most recent comedic skit, “#Hashtag.” #Hilarious. While using the hashtag is a great opportunity to add wit or flair to a post on social media, its value is often times overlooked.

Since the hashtag first appeared on Twitter in 2009, many have not understood its purpose. The first hashtag on Twitter was created by Chris Messina, a social technology expert, who tweeted, “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” Twitter’s ability to be searched or to convey conversational threads became transformed. Facebook followed suit.

Hashtags are not just a creative outlet; they connect users and create inner circles within social networking sites. For example, if I were to hashtag #marketing in my tweet, other users who click on any marketing hashtag would see my tweet. Every person’s tweet that has the hashtag marketing would then feed into the conversation. Every hashtag has the potential to become a global conversation.

Increasingly, companies are taking advantage of hashtags for increasing brand awareness and product recognition. Companies have also created hashtags to create their own buzz. For example, on Google’s 15thbirthday, they created the hashtag #google15 in a tweet. Thousands of people were responding and wishing Google a happy birthday using the hashtag:

In my own experience at college, professors use hashtags on Twitter to connect with the students and link to assignments. Universities and businesses are also using hashtags to live tweet during events, which allows intellectual conversation amongst a group without interrupting the speaker or event through a specific hashtag. Live tweeting is becoming more popular in the entertainment industry as well. For example, Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad actor, live tweeted with viewers during the show’s final episode.

Despite its misunderstood status, the humble hashtag does good within social media. At least when your feed is not being slammed with spam, that is. Here’s to hoping our friends and followers use the hashtag in a deliberate and thoughtful  fashion, unlike our friends Timberlake and Fallon.

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