To some, it looks like a number sign. To some, it’s a pound key on a telephone. To others, it’s a hand-drawn battleground for X’s and O’s to square off in classic Tic-Tac-Toe.
But, to over 175 million Twitter accountholders, it’s a hashtag. These users rely on the hashtag to help others find what they have to say. It effectively cuts through Internet clutter, immediately identifying their words as a “tweet.” And, best of all, it only counts as one character in their limit of 140.
These symbols have leapt from the virtual world to become a very real part of our culture. Coworkers talk to each other offline, across cubicles using hashtags. Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party bashed Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling his crime policies “a hashtag fail.” There is even a cult, known as the Hashtag Mafia, with members who use the index and middle finger of each hand to flash each other gang signs resembling the symbol. You can do this at home. The hashtag is so popular, there’s even a figure that can show you how.
The hashtag is many things to many people: a status symbol for the Twitter in-crowd, a punchline for self-proclaimed comedians, and an underhanded maneuver for politicians. For marketers, it is an incredibly powerful tool that can help:
- Create conversations: The reality singing competition, The Voice, has its judges engage in tweet-wars in hopes America will back their favorites.
- Promote contests: ModCloth, a clothing company, launched a Valentine’s Day contest, encouraging users to change the words of songs to be about candy using #sweetsongs.
- Crowdsource: ESPN anchors bring viewers into the action by reading their tweets on the air.
- Differentiate from competitors: Virgin America now operates an originally named and branded aircraft, #nerdbird.
- Integrate media: Audi drove users online by flashing #SoLongVampires at the end of a Supebowl commercial.
Have you come across other innovative ways marketers have used the almighty hashtag?