How online eavesdropping turned into the hashtag

With the digital revolution advancing so fast, it’s easy to forget the beginnings of certain things. For example, 14% of kids don’t even know what the “Save” icon stands for. Nowadays, digital marketers depend on the hashtag to generate engagement on social media, but the story of how it came about is quite interesting – it actually started with a guy wanting a better eavesdropping experience on Twitter!

Chris Messina’s tweet about the use of hashtags
Source: Twitter

More than a decade ago in 2007, Chris Messina birthed the hashtag in a tweet. Originally, the # symbol was something that was often used in information technology to highlight a special meaning in programming language. Initially, the response to Messina’s proposal was negative, where it was seen as too technical for the standard Twitter user.

Trending Topics on Twitter the year it was introduced (2009)
Source: SEO Services Group

However, the practicality of the hashtag triumphed as people began to find it useful, especially during the 2007 San Diego forest fire disaster. The # symbol made it easy to find and navigate the vast amounts of user generated content online. Twitter soon adopted it, introducing Trending Topics in 2009. The rest is history.

Hashtags have been used widely in many different ways since being invented, including comedy, activism and digital marketing.

Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign
Source: YouTube

One of the most successful marketing uses of the hashtag include Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke campaign, which capitalised on making consumers feel that coke was personalised for every individual. The fact that the word “Share” was integrated into the hashtag prompted people to do exactly that.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Infographic
Source: Business Insider

Another notable use of the hashtag was the ALS Association’s #IceBucketChallenge, which raised 115 million dollars in 2014. It’s success was owed to the hashtag and the fun of doing a challenge, turning it into a viral trend.

What’s remarkable is the fact that the hashtag began as a way to categorise content on social media. Nonetheless, the essence and use of the hashtag has changed over the years, and understanding it can allow digital marketers effectively aim their campaign to their targeted audiences. Now, it’s not just a way of tagging content, but a way to engage in conversation, express feelings or attitudes, get involved with viral challenges, or even to denote an entire context in a short phrase.

What are your favourite hashtags and why?

6 thoughts on “How online eavesdropping turned into the hashtag

Add yours

  1. I don’t have a favourite hashtag but I often keep up with trending Twitter hashtags! I find that hashtags are an easy way for people to categorise and find information. Businesses should definitely invest in creating catchy hashtags. At times it can lead to their brand taking on a life of its own and remaining well known for a long time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is true, Twitter’s Trending Topics makes it easy to stay up to date with news. And indeed, I think businesses should definitely invest in using hashtags, not just to create a catchy campaign to boost sales, but to stay relevant in general!


  2. Love your blog about hashtag! I don’t have a favourite hashtag but i like searching hashtags to see other people post such as #melbournefoodie, #homemade and #makeupoftheday. I think companies should think of couple of key word hashtag is an effective marketing strategy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point! I think having a few good hashtags in a social media post would really help consumers discover new brands, which is relatively low cost compared to launching a large scale campaign like Coke did!


  3. I really like this topic and how you presented everything. My fav hashtags would be anything related to motivation, as nowadays especially in this pandemic, people are suffering through depression.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! You should check out Gary Vaynerchuck, he’s on most social platforms as @garyvee. He posts a lot of motivation content but the reason I like his posts is because while his no-bs attitude might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I find that he’s so real and willing to share his experiences!


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