From t-shirts to throw pillows, bumper stickers to bookmarks, hashtags are everywhere, including, of course, on every social media platform available. But have you ever wondered how the lowly pound sign became the famous hashtag, and how it can help your business stand out in the crowd? Here’s how it came to be, and how you can use it to grow your brand.
THE HISTORY OF THE HASHTAG
In 2007, Twitter was fairly new, and didn’t have the features we’re used to today. On August 23 of that year, Chris Messina, a San Francisco developer and early user of the platform, tweeted “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”
He was frustrated that you couldn’t easily organize the information you wanted to see, and ignore the stuff you didn’t care about. However, nobody was terribly interested in using it at that point, not even Biz Stone, cofounder of Twitter.
All that changed in October 2007, when the San Diego fire broke out, and #SanDiegoFire migrated from Flikr to Twitter. Use grew quickly from there. In May 2017, Wired magazine interviewed the hashtag’s early proponents and adopters, as well as Stone. “Enough people started using them eventually that in 2009 Twitter decided to embrace them. Our developers built an automatic search tool so users could see who else was using that hashtag. When hashtags started moving to other platforms, I was like, “Whoa, this is crazy.” (source)
Now that the hashtag has been in use for over a decade, and by all estimations will be around for the foreseeable future, how can you have fun with it, while also using it to market your business? Anyone can create a hashtag, as seen by the sheer number attached to many an Instagram post. If you’re like me, when there are too many hashtags, or they’re too long, you don’t even bother reading them, which defeats the purpose! In order for a hashtag to help you promote your product, it needs to speak to your brand, be brief, and be memorable.
But where did they come from? The short answer is that they sprouted from unofficial national holidays, some of which have been around for decades (National Doughnut Day was started in 1938 by The Salvation Army). Many were created by savvy marketers to sell specific products (The National Pie Council created National Pie Day; The National Peanut Board devised National Peanut Butter Day). Others exist because of people who simply love a particular food, beverage, or item so much that they want to celebrate it and share their love with the world.
In January 2013, Marlo Anderson began compiling a list of all of these days, and created a website called NationalDayCalendar.com. (source) Eventually the website added hashtags to the holidays, and quickly saw those hashtag holidays appear on various social media platforms, increasing publicity.
Where food-related holidays are concerned, the culprit is likely Birmingham, AL food writer John-Brian Hopkins who admits to creating hundreds of these unofficial foodie holidays. (source) Check out his website at Foodimentary, or become one of his more than 800,000 Twitter followers to see what #foodholiday he’s celebrating today.
USING #HOLIDAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR PRODUCTS
#Holidays are an amusing, interactive way to promote your products, but how can you use them in a relevant and meaningful way? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Does your planner include stickers? Why not celebrate National Sticker Day on January 13.
If you’ve been shipping a lot of product (well done, you!), February 4 is National Thank a Mail Carrier Day.
Do you have a line of greeting cards, or thank you cards? #SendACardToAFriendDay is February 7, and #ThankYouNoteDay is December 26.
Is there a #Holiday that speaks to your company mission, such as National Simplicity Day (July 12)? I’m looking at you, Emily Ley!
The Saturday after Thanksgiving has become Small Business Saturday (#ShopSmall), and who doesn’t want to promote that?!
THE SOCIAL MEDIA HOLIDAY GUIDE
Done well, hashtags will make your brand more memorable, more visible, and will drive traffic to your products. But how do you find these relevant holidays without spending hours upon hours searching the internet? I’ve got you covered! Our team of editors have curated a collection of 800+ social media holidays just for you—from the widely celebrated to the stationery industry-specific to some lesser known that we think you’ll love.