The History of Hash Tags

published October 1, 2017

Ah hash tags. The building blocks of social media, these little symbols help us to navigate the often murky waters of social networking sites to find what we were actually looking for, while -mostly- avoiding those addictive cat videos. But where did these little creatures of convenience come from, and how can you use them to help people find the content you want to get out there?


Way before Twitter was even a sparkle in the internet's eye, hash tags were already being used in much the same way as they are today. The platform known as IRC, or Internet Relay Chat utilised the tags to group messages, images, and content into categories. Never heard of IRC before? Don't worry, most people haven't. Think of it like a stripped down version of Slack. People would use it to communicate with each other in dedicated groups, and while it didn't have the option to send GIFs, it was basically the first version of sophisticated online chat rooms. 

The first hash tag on Twitter

The first ever use of a hashtag on social media is credited to @MrMessina who sent out this groundbreaking message on his Twitter profile:

     "How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]??"
          - August 23rd 2007

A real high point in social media history right there. Hilariously, the founder of Twitter, apparently, didn't think the idea would ever really catch on. He thought they would be too technical for people to engage with. But boy, how wrong he was. Hash tags are now the spine that holds up the Twitter platform, and we don't think the networking site would have reached it's height of popularity without them. 

The first tweet that really showed the potential of how hash tags could help spread viral news was later that same year. In October, twitter user Nate Ridder used #sandiegofire to inform people worldwide of the ongoing wildfires in his local area at the time. But, it wasn't until two years later, in July 2009, that twitter formally adopted the hash tag as it's baby. From that point on, any text that was attached to a # symbol would be hyper-linked. 

The hash tag begins to appear across social media

Just like any other growing child, the humble little hash tag just wanted to go out and make new friends. And slowly, it began to spread across all the social media platforms it could find. First to join the club was Instagram, another site that has a whole network based around this little guy. "The 'gram" first introduced hash tags to it's site on Jan 27th 2011, a good year and a half after Twitter. And, in case you were wondering, the first #selfie was posted the very same day.

Soon to follow suit was Facebook, in June 2013. But, when they first introduced the hash tag it wasn't as smooth a transition as they had hoped it would be. 
Nevertheless, the social network persevered, and while they'll never have same importance there as they do on Twitter, they are now an accepted part of that community too. 

They are also an essential component of sites like Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, and even LinkedIn. In short, if you're looking to use social media to market your business, you're going to need to embrace this little guy - because he's bound to be there. Don't know how to use hash tags to grow your business? Oh well, I guess it's handy that we do! Get in touch with our team today, and we can help you spread your brand around like butter on freshly made toast. 

The future of hash tags

By all accounts, we can assume that the humble hash tag will be around for some time yet. With platforms like Instagram adding a hash tag feature into their stories, extending your reach, and grouping live and disappearing content together, it seems that we will continue to come up with new and inventive ways to utilise this little symbol. I mean, can anyone even remember a time when we didn't say the word "hash tag" out loud as a way to emphasise our most important and mind blowing opinions? #YOLO am I right?

So, whether you're a fan of the hash tag or not, if you're going to grow your business or brand on social media, you're going to have to tolerate it. So, why not embrace and enjoy it? Create a company specific hash tag that you can use throughout your marketing to bring your community together. Because if you can't beat them- #JoinThem.

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