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The #Hashtag Idea

Intellectual Property Attorneys

The word hashtag is an unspaced phrase prefixed with the # symbol. The #hashtag symbol can be found on most keyboards when pressing down the shift and no. 3 key simultaneously.

The #Hashtag Idea

Chris Messina, the former Google designer first proposed that Twitter adopt the #hashtag but never applied for a patent on the idea. A patent could have given him ownership of #hashtags and he could have licensed the  idea to Twitter, but that’s not what happened. Chris Messina first proposed that Twitter users use a hashtag to create “group chats” back in 2007 with this first-ever tweet using a hashtag: Twitter rejected the idea and told him it was for nerds… It’ll never catch on. Now Twitter would almost be unusable without it and even Facebook has adopted the #hashtag. Now #hashtags make it possible to group messages. One can search for the #hashtag and get the set of messages that contain it from all the different users.

One phenomenon specific to Twitter are micro-memes, which are emergent topics for which a #hashtag is created, used widely for a few days, then disappear. These #hashtags show up in a number of trending topics websites, including Twitter’s own front page. The #hashtag is also used for advertising and promotions. Companies have taken advantage of hashtag-based discussions for promotion of their products, services or campaigns…. but Hashtags are often used by consumers on social media platforms in order to complain about the customer service experience with large companies. The term “bashtag” has been created to describe situations in which a corporate social media hashtag is used to criticize the company or to tell others about poor customer service.

In January 2012, McDonald’s created the #McDStories hashtag so customers could share positive experiences about the restaurant chain. The marketing effort was cancelled after just two hours when McDonald’s received numerous complaint tweets rather than the positive stories they were expecting.

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