Hashtag (#)

We explain what a hashtag or label is, its function and characteristics. Also, how was its origin and examples of popular hashtags.

A hashtag is a string of words and characters preceded by a pound sign.

What is a hashtag?

In the jargon of the internet and specifically of social networks, it is called hashtag or label to a clickable phrase or word, that is, a metadata tag that allows a user to access a specific set of entries (such as writing or images on a social network) that have been marked with that specific descriptor. Typically, this is a string of words and characters preceded by a pound or pound sign (#).

For example, a user of social networks (especially Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Telegram) can click on the hashtag #VeganRecipes to go to the entries identified with this content, thus filtering the vastness of available online content to go directly to what you are looking for.

It is also common for users of social networks to invent their own labels to express certain personal positions, emotional states, or ironize with the use of social networks itself. For example: #IHateMondays or #Anything.

For its part, the word hashtag It is a neologism from the English language (that is, an Anglicism) composed of two different voices: hashtranslatable as “numeral” (#), and tag as “label”. Each tag or hashtag represents a specific topic and a quick and easy digital descriptor for any database of microblogging.

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Origin of the hashtags

The hash or pound sign (#) already it was part of the descriptive protocols of various online communications services from the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as Internet Relay Chat (IRC) or Jaiku.

It was used as an information descriptor, in a similar way to the keywords of library systems, but not with the exact meaning that it obtained from 2007, when it began to be used in the social network Twitter.

The first use of a hashtag on social Twitter was by Chris Messina, a Google worker.who proposed it to organize the entries (tweets or tweets) that belonged to the same group:

hashtag tweet tweet messina

The tweet translates to “How about using # (numeral) for groups, like in #barcamp [msg]?”. That same year, the use of hashtags became popular when another user on the same social network created #sandiegofire to tag his posts about the California wildfires in October.

Since then, the hashtags were used to group entries referring to the same topic, the same news event or the same debate among users of the social network, and it soon spread to other similar platforms such as Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.

characteristics of a hashtag

hashtag features
The hashtags more popular they become trending topics.

In general, a hashtag must be:

  • A simple and short sentence, of few words, that alludes directly to the subject referred to. It must be headed by the pound sign or pound sign (#) and without spaces between the words that compose it: #ThisisunHashtag.
  • It is common to differentiate between upper and lower case (CamelCase) to distinguish one important word from the rest and make it easier to read. This is usually done with the initial capitalization of each word, but there are no definitive rules on this.
  • must be clickable (that is, a hyperlink), so that the user can navigate between the entries of the platform that are identified with the same label. The same entry can have several labels simultaneously.
  • The hashtags of greater diffusion and with greater visits enter a popularity ranking and are called Trending Topics (“Popular Topics”).
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Some of the hashtags The most popular over time have been:

  • #TBT or #ThrowBackThursday. Tag popularized on Twitter to share with the public a childhood or bygone photo on Thursday of each week.
  • #YOLO. Label containing the English abbreviation of You Only Live OnceIn other words, “you only live once”. It is used to accompany confessions, announce risky decisions or ironize about rather fearful and distrustful attitudes in life.
  • #FollowFriday. Etiquette popularized on Twitter to encourage users to acquire new followers on Friday of each week.
  • #BLM or #BlackLivesMatter. Label emerged as a result of the protests and riots that occurred in the United States as a result of police excesses against Afro-descendant citizens and turned into a slogan of anti-racism in the West.
  • #Instamood. Label of the social network Instagram, which accompanies the photographs or images shared by a user to express their current state of mind.
  • #NoFilter. Label that means “without filters” and is typical of Instagram, specifically of the photos that are shared without applying embellishment filters. This is a way to warn other users that this photograph is shared without retouching.
  • #selfie. Label designed to accompany the “selfies” or self-portrait photographs that users of any social network take at any given time.
  • #FakeNews. Label designed to denounce to the rest of the users that an entry or a link to a news item is actually false, manipulative information or conspiracy theories.
  • #Photo of the day. Instagram label used by some Hispanic users to organize certain photographs that constitute their “daily contribution” to the social network, as if they were keeping a kind of photographic diary.
  • #foodporn. Label used for photographs of food or particularly succulent dishes, often accompanied by beautifying filters. It literally means “food pornography”.
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  • “Hashtag” on Wikipedia.
  • “What is Hashtag?” in Tuenti’s Techie Dictionary (Argentina).
  • What is a Hashtag? (video) on Bootcamp Digital.
  • “Hashtag” in The Britannica Dictionary.