Understanding the Hashtag


The hashtag has invaded social media, starting with Twitter and extending to Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. It’s everywhere, and rising generations have an entirely different understanding and use of the symbol than generations before. It is these young adults who are now becoming a greater share of your customer-base, as they find their own work or inherit the family business. You’ll want to meet them where they are, using communication they understand. You’ll want to #EmbraceTheHashtag. So where did the hashtag come from and how can it help your business?? (If you want to skip the history, feel free to scroll past for the tips below!)

The “#” character, technically called an octothorpe, got its start in the 1800s as a symbol for weight measurement. Those looking to abbreviate the word “pound” would write “lb” (which came from the Latin phrase “libra pondo,” meaning “pound by weight”). A line was often drawn through the top of the letters and, eventually, hurried-scribbles of “lb” simply became #. This is why we now refer to the octothorpe as the “pound sign.”

Following along so far? Good, because there’s just a bit more to go! In Britain, # also became known as the “number sign,” because they didn’t want to get things confused with their currency, which also goes by the name “pound.” As a result, we now also use # as a symbol for any number, such as phone digits. Then fast-forward to modern times, in 2007, when Google developer Chris Messina suggested the symbol as a way to identify keywords on Twitter and a techie friend offered up a new name: “hashtag.”

Whew! We made it! Today, hashtags not only keep your business culturally-relevant online, but also provide an easy way for you to be found by social media users. Adding a hashtag to a word or phrase immediately turns it into searchable content, leading those interested in that topic right to your business! For example, if you are having a huge Labor Day sale, including hashtags like “#LaborDaySale,” “#EndOfSummer,” and “#Sale” will expand your social media reach to everyone who’s searching for sales using those terms. Here are some more tips on how to be a #Success:

Don’t over-do it.
BAD – #Keep #It #Simple #And #Keep #It #Sweet
GOOD – #KeepItSimple #KeepItSweet

Use relevant hashtags people will actually search for.
BAD – @XYZDealer is having a huge Labor Day sale! Come and celebrate. #WeGotItAll4You #CelebrateXYZ #SaleAt150MainSt #BestTrucksBestPricesBestProducts
GOOD – @XYZDealer is having a huge #LaborDaySale. Come celebrate with us at 150 Main St for the best trucks, prices, & products! We’ve got it all!

Hashtags only use letters and numbers. Punctuation, spaces, or any other symbols will end the hashtag.
BAD – #MyH@shTagWon’tWork #Bad&Broken-WorstHashtagEver* #Oh no
GOOD – #DontUsePunctuation #DontUseSpaces #DontUseSymbols

Twitter won’t recognize a hashtag that’s only numbers.
BAD  For Labor Day sales details, call #5555555
GOOD  Call 555-5555 for details about our #LaborDaySale

Capital letters can help readers know when a new word begins.
BAD – #commercialtrucktrader #equipmenttrader
GOOD – #CommercialTruckTrader #EquipmentTrader

Research a hashtag to ensure that it is both relevant and appropriate. Is #LaborDay more popular than #LaborDayWeekend, or vice-versa? Is a popular hashtag appropriate, or will it associate my brand with something damaging? There are many online tools that can help you research hashtags.

#. Octothorpe. Pound sign. Number sign. Hashtag. The success of this single, weird, special character has proven to be a powerful tool for keyword branding and searching on social media. To reach today’s buyers online, it’s important to begin to integrate it into your dealership’s social media posts. #GoodLuck!!


Ethan Smith HeadshotAbout the Author

Ethan Smith

Ethan is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.

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