London, UK: We meet in a small cafe-cum-bar. It’s Monday morning and I casually order a coffee, sat across the table from me my subject orders a rum and coke. “Hair of the dog, it was a tough weekend,” they say, bags under their eyes.
Meet the hashtag, the worldwide phenomenon who was hardly known, let alone used, until Twitter emerged as a major player on the social media scene. Sure, as Mashable point out, it still represented numbers, could be used in code and was a button on your phone, but it’s Twitter which has really accelerated the hashtag’s rapid rise to celebrity status.
What began as a way to simply track conversations, follow events or keep up-to-date with news stories has transformed into a massive anything-goes-we’ll-use-a-hashtag-when-we-want scenario. Facebook have now implemented the hashtag, while it’s not even a bizarre scenario to hear people actually hashtag words [annoyingly] in general conversation in the real world.
Basically, Twitter’s created a monster.
Brands and companies try to use hashtags to promote themselves, but this is not necessarily a proven PR win.
McDonalds were trumped when they tried to make #McDStories a thing. Subsequently, loads of people took on the hashtag to criticise the fast food chain in some way or another. Presumably that wasn’t what Ronald had in mind when he got in touch with the hashtag about a collaboration.
UK supermarket chain Waitrose felt a similar backlash – albeit a snobbery backlash – with their #Waitrosereasons hashtag.
And as the hashtag spirals out of control, with late night parties and a nonchalant attitude, there are other cases where holes can be picked in it.
The fact you can’t use punctuation in a hashtag can sometimes cause confusion. When former UK Prime minister Margaret Thatcher died, #nowthatchersdead started circulating – unfortunately many people read it as ‘now that Cher’s dead’ and got a little bit confused.
Cher was not dead.
But more than its use in marketing, its use for branding and its use for following events, public affairs and news, it is the hashtag’s random use which is most annoying.
Someone might sign a tweet off with #goodday in reference to, yep, a good day they’ve had. Others might #yum about food. Necessary? And then there are the people who hashtag phrases or sentences so long they become impossible to read.
Not that the hashtag cares.
“I’ve been sat on my ass for years,” it gruffly remarks. “I don’t care how people use me these days. The point is I’m getting used, I’m vogue. I can’t even imagine my life without all the fame now.”
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