Weaving the word ‘hashtag’ into casual conversation used to be an ironic verbal shoutout to popular culture that people immediately recognized as as a fad. However, as the use of hashtags in social media has grown, the word hashtag has taken some serious roots in our candor. A post highlighting a Starbucks coffee on an autumn day will sometimes be seen tagged as #basic to make the user’s audience aware that they themselves know how common what they’re doing actually is. According to Muriel MacDonald in How #Hashtags Change the Way We Talk, “Among Twitter’s triumphs is the reinvention of self-mockery.”, which is exactly where the use of the pound symbol began.
Popular music phenomenon Bruno Mars channeled Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon in the lyrics of his latest hit single, 24K Magic. “Hashtag blessed”.
Hashtags are now, especially in this political climate, an excellent organizer of citizen journalism, which is defined as “nonprofessional journalists producing and disseminating journalistic knowledge,”(pg. 70, Humphrees) in Social Media, Enduring Principles (2016). Each day, users can find popular causes by browsing the “Explore” area of Twitter, where the most used hashtags are displayed.
Hashtags can have far reaching implications on businesses if a mass of discontented users gather around the cause. “Why People are Deleting Uber” by Brian Feldmen of New York Magazine outlines the recent uprising against Uber for the company’s refusal to shut down their services in solidarity with the JFK airport protestors. When Twitter users with a lot of social capital shine a light on businesses in a bad way, tangible damage can ensue for company profits. Feldmen states, “Lyft, one of Uber’s main competitors, used the controversy as an opportunity to announce that it would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years” (Feldmen, 2017). Because hashtags are so simple to track, competitor companies can prey on the public downfall and spin it to their advantage. Oliver Blanchard summarizes this well in Social Media ROI, “The flip side of the situational awareness coin is threat management: the threat of obsolescence, the threat of missing the next market shift of technological advance, the threat of watching your own customers flock to a competitor because they were more in tune with your market’s needs than you were, and even the threat of finding yourself exposed to a PR crisis that your typical marketing communications mechanisms are not equipped to manage” (Blanchard, pg. 131). A hashtag PR crisis is an incredible beast to manage, considering it is a fire fueled by the public. You have to engage potentially millions of angry people to save the face of your company.
Pop culture has dominated the hashtag climate very successfully. People are eager to gather around news that is positive, like Beyonce’s announcement of twins this week. The use of memes and GIFs also serve the hashtag realm very well by injected a dose of comedy into the movement. A meme attached to a hashtag can generate a lot of traffic because people may search the hashtag just to share the funny photo with their friends.
Blanchard, Olivier. “Chapter 10.” Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. Indianapolis, IN: Que, 2011. N. pag. Print.
Feldmen, Brian. “Why People Are Deleting Uber En Masse.” Nymag.com. New York Magazine, 29 Jan. 2017. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.
Humphreys, Ashlee. “Chapter 5.” Social Media: Enduring Principles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. Pages 63-76. Print.
Macdonald, Muriel. “How #Hashtags Changed the Way We Talk.” TINT Blog. Disqus, 09 Sept. 2016. Web. 01 Feb. 2017. <https://www.tintup.com/blog/how-hashtags-changed-the-way-we-talk/>