hashtag flickr maria elenaHashtags — words or short phrases preceded by the # symbol — are seemingly everywhere now. The hashtag was initially adopted in the Twittersphere as a means of indexing and linking content to searchable and thus cross-linkable subject matter designations. A designation like #XYZ could be used by people on social media to denote messages about XYZ. The #XZY tag would then cross-link to all messages containing that hashtag and display those messages to anyone who used or searched for the #XYZ hashtag. This would allow a single social media user to gain exposure to potentially thousands of other users around the world who were interested in that hashtag. Hashtags are now used for innumerable subjects and purposes, from politics (#Hillary2016) to social issues (#Ferguson) to the inane (#lolcats). Because use of hashtags in social media can result in the exponential spread of a post across the Internet, much like the Faberge “and they told two friends…” commercial, it was only a matter of time before marketers began to harness the viral potential of # to build brand awareness and entice customers.
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