Who’d have thought that the #humblehashtag could become the superglue of social media. This little symbol creates ripples & Mexican waves across key social channels such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Vine & Google+, by making ordinary social posts clickable-&-shareable, findable-&-trendable. It’s a 21st century Victorian calling card. Back in the day of genteel manners & formal introductions, calling cards were exchanged for the purpose of developing friendships. The gracious reserve of a calling card was a gentle reminder of the person who left it. The same is true of that little symbol (#), which today is recognised across the globe. And back again. 

The Victorian era is characterised by the rise of the ephemera industry, where craftsmanship combined with new technologies and gave rise to increased social interaction in many cases. Hmmm! Sounds rather like a description of the social media boom. During this time literally thousands of calling cards were printed. A beautiful new way of communicating flourished. And calling cards went boom. Making a good impression was essential. So you can imagine the care that was poured into a finely crafted card:

  • Hand-calligraphy flourished cards. Created by highly skilled penmen, experts in the art of flourishing, who would hold the pen still while rotating the card to create the most elaborate designs.
  • Double hidden name cards. These had a quote or picture which underneath revealed the bearers name.
  • Fringe or double fringe cards. At the height of the Victorian era these were the creme-de-la-creme of calling cards and were a statement of class, breeding and love of luxury.
  • Photograph cards. Quite possibly the forerunner of the business card!
  • Gelatine cards. Fragile cards made from gelatine. Plastic hadn’t been invented yet!
  • Envelope cards with the most elaborate & exquisite envelopes.
  • Acquaintance cards carried in the pockets of young men hoping they’d get lucky and escort a young lady home after a social event.
  • Courtship cards where marriage was clearly on the cards!

Do you speak #hashtag?
Whether they entertain, confuse or annoy you (or some combination of the three) hashtags are now an intrinsic part of posting. Thank you Chris Messina. Godfather of the Hashtag, who on 23rd August 2007 started the hashtag revolution.

Fast-forward to the now. Hashtags are here-there-&-everywhere. By now everyone has seen or even heard hashtags. Yep. The spoken ‘hashtag’ has jumped the social fence and landed in everyday speech. It even has its own gesture, using fingers to create an ‘air hashtag‘ to become the kissin’ cousin of ‘air quotation marks’. Do you speak #hashtag? Well Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake do. This viral video is a work of witty art that shows what not to do with a hashtag and how not to use it.

The beauty of hashtags
Rather like the Victorian calling card, a hashtag has a number of applications and uses:

  • Content hashtags
  • Trending hashtags
  • Brand hashtags
  • Event hashtags
  • Campaign hashtags

It’s not a case of one size fits all. Before using them think about the type of social engagement & levels of interaction you want the hashtag to foster and fuel. Get that right and you’ll discover the beauty of the hashtag.