Social media can do some pretty amazing things. One of which is the ability to make that little sign (also known as the pound key) that you push after an automated message tells you to over the phone a cool trend. The little sign I am talking about is the famous hashtag. Something that businesses and people proliferate from. Oh, what would we do without them...
While using hashtags in our daily colloquial conversations, such as saying #tbt (throwback Thursday) or #tbh (to be honest) there has been a business surrounding the idea. There are websites that analyze the popularity of certain hashtags, the use of a certain hashtag and how a hashtag is used across different networks. Sites like Hashtagify.com, RiteTag, Tagboard and Trendsmap are all services catered to analyzing hashtags.
I imagine that businesses would use these sites more than every day people to see how their competitors are doing, see what people are saying about their products and to see how the hashtags they use are used in different ways. Hashtags would also work great for content analyses for advertising and public relations research because it shows the engagement (retweets, replies, likes, comments, shares, favorites) that consumes have with businesses.
Hashtags are not only useful in the business world. They entertain, inform and unite us. In this way, a small symbol that started on Twitter and moved to Google Plus, Instagram, Facebook and Google search has value when it is added to the end of a post.
I always find it interesting when one hashtag is meant in a completely different context than another. I remember one day I was talking to a friend who was searching different hashtags on Instagram to see what would come up. The hashtag she and her other friend searched was #biggirls. She said she found women who were proud of their bodies and showed it on social media, but there were also mothers who had taken pictures of their little daughters and used the hashtag. There was also the women's volleyball team from FSU who took a picture after practice and they used the hashtag among many other ones. This just shows how hashtags can be used in many different contexts.
The #Chapelhillshooting and #DeanSmith trended not only in the local area, but across the nation. It had the ability to let others know what had happened even if they had no idea about the two situations. When I log on to my Yahoo account, I always see the top stories trending whether it's Kim Kardashian, Barack Obama, ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or anything. It lets me automatically know that many people are talking about this one thing, and most of the time it's about what someone did or something major that happened. When people see this they are more likely to click on it to see what the story is about. This is how hastags inform. Given that many people get their news from online social media and websites, hastags are very valuable because it helps people choose what they want to read about.
Hashtags also get me excited! When it's Monday, I know people will post their man crushes for #mcm (Man Crush Monday) or I can't wait for Wednesday when I can post who my Women crush is for #wcw (Women Crush Wednesday). I especially can't wait for Thursday for #tbt to see all the embarrassing or cute photos of my peers when they were younger. Hashtags always give me something to look forward to throughout my week. Of course these things can be distractions, but nonetheless are great reasons for study/work breaks. I wonder how long people will continue to use them.
To me, hashtags are like URLs without the proper address. You can search with them, find the thing you intended to find and things you may not have wanted to see. Thus, giving the world access to more necessary and unnecessary information.