THE RISE AND RISE OF HASHTAGS

The year was 2009. I think it was a Friday night because all of my flatmates were up well past midnight. In the 3rd floor of our housing board flat in beach side Tiruvanmiyur, we were hotly debating whether we had just felt the building shake ever so slightly. Mild tremors are tricky to be felt, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. I remember how I had decided to settle the issue by logging on to Twitter. Search: #Chennai. We found out that we were not the only ones to have taken note of the earthquake. Thanks, hashtag!

Twitter hadn’t made it big yet. None of the others present that night were on Twitter, or knew of the hashtag search. Twitter had introduced hashtags earlier that year in July, after toying with the idea for 2 years.

Hashtag was Social search’s answer to Google search’s search bar. Originally introduced to group similar topic conversations for users to track, the hashtag is still that, and yet much more than that. Instagram and Google+ added hashtag support in 2011, and in 2013, they were joined by Vine and a reluctant Facebook.

As the users saw its value, so did brands. Through a simple hashtag, brands could now collect, organise and aggregate user-generated content to design and run cohesive social campaigns. And of course it didn’t stop there. Back in the day, actors would pay their fan groups lavish sums to infiltrate the movie release of their rival actors and ruin the first show with boos and banter. These days it’s the hashtag wars to “trend” higher than their rival fans in social media.

Hashtags took center-stage in every walk of our digital life. From Super Bowls to California wild fires to Arab spring to your neighbor’s wedding – it’s as if nothing relevant happens anymore without a hashtag.  “Generation Hashtag” and “Hashtag Activism” are phrases that actually make sense today. Even the concept of hashtag is here to stay. Apparently new generic top-level domains are categorizing the browser or domain name experience in self-selected ways, much like hashtags.

Twitter also knows that hashtags are key to everything happening in the digital world – across the spectrum – right from charities adopting the hashtag for philanthropic activities to the pitiless ISIS using it as their modus operandi – the group’s rapid growth being facilitated by their masterful command of social media. There was much hue and cry when news spread that Twitter is raising the character limit in tweets to 10,000 but one new feature that wasn’t discussed as much – was the introduction of hashtag ads. Although it is still in beta, with all the recent monetization efforts By Twitter, one could see this coming.

2015 would probably be remembered for #piggate, #thedress etc. and the fun people had on social media with these hashtags, and maybe not for the events that lead to those hashtags. So do share this post on social media if you liked it but don’t forget to use #RiseOfHashtag. Before signing off, let me remind you to keep in mind what the Mumbai Police had to say about hashtags!

#TheEnd

WHAT TWITTER’S 10,000 CHARACTER LIMIT MEANS FOR MARKETERS

Social media, especially twitter.com, is rife with news of a proposed change in the wayTwitter fundamentally works – character limit for Twitter, which is now 140, is to be increased to 10,000!

The Twitter users are understandably appalled at this suggestion. But what about the marketers who use the platform?

Re/code first reported that Twitter was building a product like this back in September. On 5th Jan, 2016, they reported that the company is targeting a launch date toward the end of Q1, according to sources familiar with the company’s plans. CEO Jack Dorsey provided much more clarity with his tweet later in the day.

Taking screenshots of text and posting it as image to show how inconvenient it is (for the tweet publisher and the reader), and how the proposed change would palliate this problem. We get it, Jack. Well played.

This is seen as a sign that Twitter and Jack Dorsey are willing to make serious changes in hopes of luring new users, increasing engagement from newly registered (often clueless) users, and – from a marketer’s perspective – most importantly, increasing ad revenue. This optimism seems to be misplaced when you consider recent initiatives like ‘Moments’, polls in tweets, “buy” button and heart-shaped “like”, all of which seems to have made little impact so far

Increasing the limit of Direct Messages (DM) back in mid 2015 to 10,000 was indeed a welcome change for brands that use Twitter as a customer service tool. It helped eliminate the back-and-forth discussion between customer and business via DM’s.

As far as the new proposed change is concerned, for the marketer, this means more incentive to publish original and good quality native content on Twitter, for better brand building and user engagement (provided the users are still there). Instead of writing in Medium or a brand blog, the content can be on Twitter itself . 10,000 characters would roughly translate to 1500-1600 words, and Twitter believes that this is enough to keep the user engaged on the platform itself, rather than navigating away through a click, or reading text on an image. Neither of this can be indexed and are hence unavailable for targeting via ads.