The Power of the #Hashtag

Welcome! This week, we will be discussing social media and its power. Specifically, today’s post will relate to the communication, action and overall change of one commanding icon- #.

Within the last couple of years, social media’s pinnacle of communication has become the hashtag. Businesses and organizations alike have been using this symbol to communicate with their audiences. While a hashtag can serve many purposes, they can above all capture a viewer’s attention in a small number of words.


In recent news, hashtags have been called upon for their usage in social media activism. Movements for #YesAllWomen, #BringBackOurGirls, #Kony2012 and #Ferguson have all reinforced, strengthened and furthered their discussion with the use of general social media, and specifically with their hashtags. Suddenly, news is no longer limited to the newspaper over coffee or the radio on the morning commute; hashtags unify most social media forums and have transcended those traditional sources.

Yet, some critics argue that hashtags are overused and only serve to simplify complex issues that need deeper, concrete action. At her commencement speech at Dartmouth College, Shonda Rhimes argued that “a hashtag is not a movement”. She continues to assert that hashtags only involve someone sitting around at their computer, imputing a phrase, and going back to watching television. Others, from Forbes to the Huffington Post, have agreed and find hashtags to be fleeting, unimpressionable and distorted. Within the time frame of #YesAllWomen, tweets pertaining to Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus were just as popular. This discussion certainly serves for a deeper analysis about hashtags and their usage.hashbrown

Whether these symbols serve to create actual change or not, hashtags are infinitely useful for indexing. As soon as a hashtag is used on most forms of social media, it can be utilized as a forum or hub about a particular topic. Click on a hashtag, whether professionally or personally affiliated, and associated posts or discussions pop up. Being able to initiate or contribute to an online conversation has infinite power. Yet, having such freedom allows misspellings or inconsistencies to spawn limitless subtopics or conversations. If businesses does not champion consistency, usability and branding, a hashtag could quickly render them inaccessible and meaningless. As with anything, such power comes with the responsibility.

Should we start with these symbols in order to release the initial message, or does it oversimplify the message to the point of underestimating its importance? As simple as a hashtag is, are a few characters better than none?

#WhatDoYouThink? #HowHaveHashtagsHelped?

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 1, 2014 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    I think that hashtags are an incredibly powerful way of starting movements, even if they are not movements in of themselves. As a society, we tend to either choose inaction as a blissful way of not thinking about/ getting involved in issues, or we do something like use a hashtag and then stop thinking about the bigger picture. I’d argue that the “simplification” of using a hastag comes from the mindset of those using the hastag who tweet things like #BringBackOurGirls and then fail to research and follow-up on the issue. The use of these hashtags and the symbols Alexa talks about are effective in conveying the initial messages that many people wouldn’t otherwise get, in teaching people about issues they might not know exist. But the actual change, the power behind the hastags, won’t occur unless people take it upon themselves to take the next step. The underestimation of the importance of the messages that come with these hashtag trends falls on people, not on the issues or the movements themselves. I truly believe that if we acknowledge the limitations as well as the power of hastags and twitter movements (or pre-movements), issues can be brought to light and change can happen in a really powerful way.

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  1. By Matching the Purpose to the Social Media Platform on October 3, 2014 at 8:09 am

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