The Hashtag Revolution
By Sarah Allen - 11 November 2013
Twitter came onto the social media scene in 2006 and has cemented itself as a highly influential hub of breaking news, general chatter and serious debate.
With the company shares now on offer and priced currently at $55 each (*info correct at time of blogging), it prompted me to look back to Twitters humble beginnings and work out how the site has changed the way the world communicates.
With more than 218m active users, Twitter accounts can vary hugely from a college student who loves to tweet about what she's had for lunch to the political tweets of US President Barack Obama, who hired a specialist team dedicated to analysing tweets ahead of his re-election.
Twitter, and the infamous hashtag, have become the norm for communicating an instant message in no time at all. The # symbol has become the definitive way to group tweets around the same subject to bring about a discussion or conversation ranging from serious to fun and sometimes, abusive.
Even Facebook has jumped onto the bandwagon and introduced the hashtag as a way of bringing conversations about public events, people, and topics to the forefront of the social media site.
The Twitter platform is arguably one of the most effective ways to create a campaign as a hashtag that instantly takes off has the potential to create a Twitterstorm, resulting in plenty of interaction.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of Twitter, have a think about how you used to complain to a company if you ever received an unsatisfactory product or service.
Writing a traditional letter and sealing it with a stamp used to be the most common way to complain. Now we have the ability to tweet a company direct and get a response much quicker if their standards aren't up to scratch.
In fact, most global brands are likely to have a social media team which is already on the lookout for any negative tweets or hashtags that might go viral and tarnish their company's reputation.
The biggest news often breaks first on Twitter and it doesn't take long for a hashtag to catch on. For instance, the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden was revealed first on Twitter.
Many journalists have also admitted that tweets are regularly the starting point for news stories. Journalists at Sky News found this out the hard way after being banned from reposting non-company tweets and told to check with the news desk before breaking any news stories.
Makes you think, how did we all know what was going on five years ago?
On a more positive note, Twitter has changed the world for the better in some ways:
- Hashtags are a great way to find out what stories are making the headlines and causing great debate.
- Twitter has given people the opportunity to engage directly with politicians and world leaders, allowing comment on major announcements.
- For people with celebrity crushes or obsessions, Twitter allows any fans to contact their favourite celebrities.
- Twitter brings people together in support of sporting events and other important occasions. For example, during Murray's Wimbledon win, 3.4 million tweets were sent out in less than 12 hours.
- The platform has helped to create various social movements and protests against cyber bullying, sexual violence and other global issues using #activism.
Before Twitter, the little # symbol was one that was rarely used on a modern day keyboard, and now it has created a up-to-the-second form of communication.