4 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Twitter #hashtag

Behold, The New York Times discovered the hashtag! Over the weekend, it published a trend story on this Twitter tool, which included some useful stuff.


Everyone be very still. The New York Times has an announcement: Hashtags exist. It’s official. Thank you—now back to your daily lives.

In a story over the weekend, the Gray Lady laid out what these old-fangled things are about and quoted Ginger Wilcox, founder of the Social Media Marketing Institute, who called 2010 the “year of the hashtag.”

Imagine the jubilee in the Times newsroom when someone finally heralded, “Trend story!” Joking aside, the article does offer some useful and interesting information about hashtags. Here are a few examples:

1. Advertising and marketing can also take advantage of hashtags. Jane Olson of Oxygen Media is interviewed for the article. She said: “It’s a nod to ‘we know you and we live in your world,’ but it’s also a way to get a conversation started in our advertising,” adding, “The other funny thing that’s been happening is that people around the office have started to talk in hashtags—’Hashtag sorry I’m late,’ or ‘Hashtag bad day.’ ” The Times also noted that for this year’s Super Bowl, Audi created a commercial that featured a hashtag—#ProgressIs—on the screen.

2. People are using hashtags in emails. Not just any people, but Chris Messina, the Google employee (not the actor). The Times said he dropped #Introduction in the subject line of an email that he sent to introduce two friends. “No need, he explained, for a long preamble when a quick, to-the-point hashtag would do,” the Times said.

3. Messina invented the hashtag. According to the Times, Messina—again, the Google employee, not the actor—is the self-described “hash godfather,” and he “officially invented the Twitter hashtag in August 2007, when he sent out a Twitter message suggesting that the pound symbol be used for organizing groups on Twitter.” The nickname “hash godfather,” meanwhile, had a whole different meaning during my college trip to Amsterdam.

4. Hashtags are the evolution of a ’90s phenomenon. “A message that reads ‘3 hour delay on Amtrak #StimulusDollarsAtWork,’ likely implies that the user does not, in fact, think that their stimulus dollars are hard at work.” Astute observation, NYT. In other words, hashtags can be used as the updated version of the ’90s “Not!” made famous by “Wayne’s World” (and later the Sasha Baron Cohen character Borat). That’ll last. #ImBeingIronic

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