Last week marked 10 years since Twitter introduced the hashtag to the world of social media. Despite a rocky start, the hashtag is now well established within all social platforms. The question is, can Twitter claw back not only Ad Spend but also the ownership of the conversation grouping tool that it launched to the world in 2007 to fuel its growth?
It’s no secret that Twitter hasn’t been growing, with revenue down for a second quarter in a row as the platform struggles to attract new users and new advertising revenue as brands migrate their spend to rivals Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.
Whilst Twitter can’t compete with the new kids on the block, like Snapchat from an ad innovation perspective or Instagram from an integration and organic engagement rate standpoint, Twitter does lead the way in news amplification. No other social platform is so closely aligned to breaking news and being the source of information.
Despite the above, Twitter has still managed to retain a number of high profile users including Donald Trump who’s daily tweets seem to form that day’s news agenda. They’re also making ground way in supporting video, partnering with the likes of Bloomberg to provide a daily news broadcast and recently live streaming Wimbledon, living up to their objective of “making Twitter the best place to see and share what's happening” and in some part this success has been down to the hashtag which drives shares.
But it has also left Twitter in a state of confusion, are they a social media platform or news platform? Their app is currently the UK’s most downloaded in the news category. No small feat when you consider their competitors, the likes of the BBC and other well-established news outlets, but perhaps isn’t surprising considering twitter’s ability to drive community engagement around breaking news and current affairs content. Twitter has become part of daily life for its current community, even if it’s not growing at the same rate as other platforms.
As a conversation and engagement platform it’s an undeniable power house. With recent tweets almost starting wars, Wendy’s giving #NuggsForCarter a year of free nuggets for getting the most retweets ever and breaking the news of the recent atrocities, driven by the rise in the community’s interest in news and the noble hashtag is partially responsible for this success.
Hashtag History Lesson:
It’s widely believed that Chris Messina first proposed the use of hashtags in Tweets on August 23rd 2007 as a way to group conversations. In fact his Twitter profile today lists “Invented the #”as one of his achievements.
Legend suggests it took Chris a little while to convince the other Twitter Execs that the hashtag was a good idea, but on 2nd July 2009, Twitter officially rolled out the hashtag and linked them with search results. A little over a month later Tumblr adopted the hashtag in the same way. Noting the trend in use of the new tool, Twitter added Trending Topics to their homepage on 30th March 2010 which cemented the fate of the hashtag in driving online storytelling for the platform.
It wasn’t long before the hashtag was commonly utilised by the community as part of normal conversations, which led to mainstream media adoption and the final push of hashtag use into other platforms, Instagram, Flickr and finally Facebook in June 2013.
The hashtag has evolved over the last ten years from a simple content organisational tool to a language of its own, a news source and community developing feature. But, for the marketing and advertising industry the elements that this tool was founded upon still hold the most value, organising social media content, participating in relevant conversations and measurement.