#HappyBirthday Hashtags

Today the hashtag turns ten, will it help drive Twitter in a new direction that secures its future for years to come?

It’s no secret that Twitter has been struggling in recent years, advertising revenue is down for a second quarter in a row as the platform struggles to compete with rivals Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat in attracting new users and brands to their platform.

But I don’t think Twitter is going anywhere. Twitter offers something that no other social platform does, an actual news feed, and whilst they face the familiar challenge of fake news stories, no other social platform is as closely affiliated to breaking news and a source of information for users and news outlets. It’s become common place for news outlets to site Tweets and in instances of breaking news include a hashtag feed for real-time updates and information. 

In an interview, last year Twitter’s co-founder and chief exec Jack Dorsey said: "Twitter’s role in the world still centres on bringing people together to watch live events in the place where information comes the fastest."

They’ve demonstrated this in their live streaming service, which signed deals with Wimbledon and Blomberg to provide a daily news broadcast and sports updates.

You might ask, so what? Everyone streams content these days, right? Twitter stands out amongst the crowd because of its enormous community and ability to promote conversation around broadcast content. Yes, you could watch Wimbledon on the BBC but through Twitter you can watch the coverage and join real-time conversation through #Wimbledon. You can appreciate the tennis on another level, it’s not just the game that’s interesting, and it’s the opinions of the community and your ability to engage with the like-minded, all thanks to the humble hashtag, developed ten years ago as a way to group conversations. 

As an organic conversation and engagement platform Twitters’ an undeniable power house. The hashtag has promoted and driven movements like #WorldPlantMilkDay and helped users and celebrities alike promote themselves and their needs, remember #NuggsForCarter? The aforementioned Carter, managed to bag himself a year of free chicken nuggets after reaching out to American food outlet, Wendy’s and setting the record for most retweets ever.

These successful hashtags were created organically, an instant reaction to social and cultural moments in history, but brands and businesses have to take a more strategic approach to using hashtags in their social media activations

How brands are benefitting from ten years of the hashtag:

Ease of tracking and reporting

 With Twitter being an open platform the noble hashtag provides brands with a reporting tool, showing just how far and wide their story and content has travelled. Providing the ability to see who has shared and the potential size of that audience.

Joining online communities and conversations

Hashtags allow brands to capitalise on a trending or relevant topic. Examples like #Nationalburgerday are driving food and consumer brands to create relevant and exciting campaigns and content to join the existing online discussion, guaranteeing an audience for their message.

On and offline integration

Hashtags allow brands to bring off-line campaigns online. By including hashtags in their OOH/ATL media they are able to continue and track their campaigns as they continue online.

Twitter is arguably the most ingrained content platform in modern culture. Whether it's live sports, news and TV shows to national days, trends and events, Twitter continues to be the place that people go to see what’s going on. Without the ability to gather the content and news in real-time would Twitter have a future at all?

I don’t think so. So with that, Happy Birthday Twitter hashtags, keep the conversation and future of Twitter bright.

Andy Edmonds is head of content at iProspect

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