The Rebranding of a Symbol

July 24, 2013 in Entrepreneurship, General, Social Media, Starting up by Zeina Sarrouf Nassar

This article is a first in a series on how you can get the most out of your social network. Written by Zeina Sarrouf Nassar

The octothorpe has a new career, reborn on August 23, 2007 as the “hashtag.”

The term octothorpe was coined by engineers at Bell Laboratories in the early 1960s; the scientists at Bell Laboratories modified the telephone keypad and added the # symbol to send instructions to the telephone operating system. Since the # symbol didn’t have a name, the technicians made one up. They knew it should be called “octo-” something because it has eight ends around the edge.

The use of hashtags on Twitter came from a convention used on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). Where the user created channels to discuss a given topic, and each channel was named with a hash followed by a title for the channel – a #hashtag. Chris Messina proposed to adopt the same convention on Twitter so that the user could search for all the tweets talking about the same topic – and the hashtag as we know it now was born!

Hashtag #, as a new type of organizational objects of information, plays a dual role in online micro blogging communities. On one hand, a hashtag serves as a bookmark of content, which links tweets with similar topics; on the other hand, a hashtag serves as the symbol of a community membership, which bridges a virtual community of users.

Following the hashtag adoption of Twitter; other social networks acquired it in their platforms naming Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, tumblr and lately Facebook etc… The following acquisition force created various advantages:

  1. Create an online global topic in real-time
  2. Start a competition
  3. Direct the focus of your audience.
  4. Channel content
  5. Host and join Chats, The network become a viable as a venue for public discussion/debate/trends
  6. Get information
  7. Gain followers
  8. Create categories
  9. Growing social media marketing activity

The rebranding of the hashtag incorporated sense and traffic in social media, this massive popular evolution is being used by artists, politicians, public figures, as well as presidential campaigns, revolutions, digital activism, and advocacy etc. Hashtags are a great tool for promotion and discovery on most social media networks, they have become the new way of spreading the word. #hashtag #twitter #facebook #socialmedia

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