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August 04, 2016

Team Member Renee Spurling

Renee Spurlin


Executive Vice President

What’s the quickest way to connect with people all over the world? The hashtag, of course. Back in the days of Don Draper, the hashtag was merely a telephone button. Today, the symbol that was an after thought is now a social media power tool that pushes your content to the people you actually want to reach. You’ll see hashtags on not just Twitter, but other social platforms including Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. They also appear in commercials, television shows, and on food packages and clothing. Parents are even naming their kids after the symbol (here’s to you, Hashtag Jameson). The hashtag won’t be leaving our social lives anytime soon so we should embrace its magical powers while we can.

According to Androit Digital, product information found on social media influences 75 percent of Americans’ shopping behaviors online and enhances brand loyalty. The report also states that social media is the second most likely way U.S. Millennials will learn about a new product. So how can you be sure that people are actually seeing your message? Forbes Contributor Steve Cooper describes it best: 

As with all things social media, the hashtag evolved from a symbol to business brand ambassador in just a few short months after its birth and can be used as a recruiting tool, customer service rep and PR pro – all jam-packed into four crossed lines.

Hashtag History

As I sat back in my chair at Launchfest, surrounded by other tech lovin’, social media pros, I watched a Silicon Valley-chic (or what we at AR|PR like to call, #YoureSoTech) keynote speaker pop up on stage. After the DJ’s funky beat simmered down, I quickly learned that this trendy fellow was Chris Messina, the inventor of the hashtag.

Messina, also a co-founder of BarCamp, wanted to streamline conversations with conference attendees, so on a whim, “the godfather” of the hashtag sent out a tweet using the then mysterious symbol in the archaic age of Twitter:

Messina’s goal was to improve “contextualization, content filtering and exploratory serendipity.” Even though he faced backlash from Twitter co-founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone as well as countless Twitter users, Messina used the hashtag endlessly until it caught on. He used the symbol in text messages, emails and Google Doc headlines. His vision for a hashtag-filled future came true just months later when the symbol became a life-saving tool during the 2007 San Diego fire:

Twitter users across the globe could seamlessly follow news and receive updates related to the tragedy with just a click. Hashtags are now used all over the world to anthologize and organize ideas and events including political events (#2015elections), celebrities (#Beyonce) and world news (#LoveWins).


Before throwing around this small, powerful weapon, it’s crucial to understand the bigger picture. Here are a few of my quick tips that will launch your hashtag through the social sphere:

  1. Create your very own hashtag?

    Using your business’ designated hashtag allows users to find content related to your business. If you don’t already have one, this is why you should: 500 million Tweets are sent each day and 9,674 Tweets are sent per second. Since users refine their newsfeeds by searching for hashtags, they’ll flock to YOU when your content consistently appears with a specific hashtag. Create a hashtag that’s relevant to your business and promote, promote, promote! Place the hashtag in all your marketing materials including business cards, email signatures and even brand logos to get users talking about your business.

  1. Less is More.


Please stop. Keep it short and sweet. Long hashtags are less likely to be found than short hashtags. If there is a space between one or more words you intend to hashtag or if there is punctuation preceding the hashtag, the link will be broken. But wait, there’s more.

  1. Be everywhere all at once.

    Ever wanted to attend an event but couldn’t make it or afford it? Follow the event’s hashtag to join in the conversations happening in real time or live vicariously through attendees’ tweets. Reply to keynote speakers and key influencers attending the event to get your opinions and questions in the mix.

  2. Insert the Magic Number:

There’s a scientific sweet spot for the optimal number of hashtags to use per post. Tweets with one to two hashtags boost engagement by 21 percent, whereas tweets with more than two hashtags drop engagement by 17 percent. On Instagram, research shows that lucky number 11 increases interactions. For Facebook, don’t sweat it. Posts without a hashtag perform better than those that do. However, inserting hashtags still makes it easy for users to track topics and ideas.

  1. Make TwitChats Your New BFF:

What’s a TwitChat? It’s a regularly scheduled discussion revolving around a particular topic using a set hashtag. News websites and businesses across industries chat with their followers and share their message by leading or participating in TwitChats. I personally like jumping into PRDaily’s #RaganChat every Tuesday because I can learn from and talk with passionate PR practitioners.

At Alloy, we love to #makenews. A solid social media and content marketing strategy is a key component to any successful integrated communications campaign to increase lead generation and sales. We create customized social media content and campaigns for our tech clients, and you can bet, we’re all about the hashtag. #LongLiveTheHashtag