Opinion: The life of the humble hashtag

By Ashley Di Terlizzi

PHOTO: mikecogh via photopin cc

PHOTO: mikecogh via photopin cc

The hashtag. That annoying symbol some people use as shorthand for ‘number’. Others use it to #captiontheirlunch. But that almost useless button at the bottom of your phone is now a worldwide community engagement phenomenon – or put simply, really cool.

The hashtag is used to share information online, usually only for short periods of time. In a way, the hashtag has become a kind of cultural icon, the glue that holds together online communities and advertising campaigns.

But why do I think the evolution of the hashtag is a cool thing?

Well it does have something to do with Susan Boyle’s #susanalbumparty (note: the PR company swear it to this day that there was no anal-bum-party involved).

But I for one am grateful for its marketing abilities.

The hashtag links members of virtual and real life communities with each other or to similar content, organisations or groups. Simply click on #trendingtopics on both Twitter and Facebook and your newsfeed will fill with related content from around the world. Unless of course your name is Qantas and you set up trending topic #QantasLuxury at the same time as leaving hundreds of your passengers stranded overseas.

Just think of all of those amazing #selfies you’ve seen on Instagram and the endless #amazinglunch photos that have flooded your Facebook wall. Some of those food photos have turned every day people into fulltime foodies. Some of them.

The hashtag has become a kind of cultural icon, the glue that holds together online communities and advertising campaigns.

Not all marketing works well on Twitter and Facebook though, that goes without much saying. But when it goes right – it really goes right.

The human race thrives on communication and the hashtag has connected millions and more in the world together through the internet.

The world of advertising has truly benefited from the hashtag evolution, generating vast amounts of revenue from seemingly easy marketing strategies. Marketing companies have managed to give consumers a more active role in the advertising world. But what are they actually actively doing?

Audiences around the world are able to jump onto advertising ‘hashtag band wagons’. Simply supporting an advertising campaign through retweets, reposts and regenerating specific hashtags is music to advertisers’ ears.

One of the most popular advertising campiness was AAMI’s popular television ad which followed the story of Rhonda and Ketut. The ad was made popular through social media with Facebook pages dedicated to the fictional couple popping up all over our newsfeeds.

Simply ‘like’ the Facebook page The Sexual Tension Between Rhonda and Ketut to keep updated with the couple or search ‘Rhonda and Ketut’ in Twitter. Just be prepared to sift through a lot of Bali wedding photos.

AAMI took advantage of the popular pages and gave audiences the choice of two alternative endings to the series of Rhonda and Ketut ads. Social media users were able to vote through apps and the AAMI website for their favourite ending and were made to watch for the last instalment of the ad series to find out the winning choice.

Supporting an advertising campaign through retweets, reposts and regenerating specific hashtags is music to advertisers’ ears.

Another really cool thing about hashtags are the hashtag cults that evolve online. Online cults for popular shows including Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, two of the highest rating and most illegally downloaded shows worldwide – thank you Foxtel – are filled with spoilers, rants and memes.

Without listening to devoted online audiences, these popular shows wouldn’t attract as many views nor would they make enough money to continue production.  That, I think is probably the most positive impact that the hashtag evolution has had.

With great marketing abilities, that simple symbol has changed the day-to-day world we live in, #ForTheWin.

2 responses to “Opinion: The life of the humble hashtag

  1. I totally get that, but I still don’t like anything hashtag, maybe just because I am an upstream, against the flow type of person. Awesome post tho, you almost convinced me… ;)

    • It is definitely a divisive topic! Twitter makes you warm to it a lot more than Instagram or Facebook. It is useful for brand outreach though… Thanks for your comment :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s