Remember the old days, when the pound sign was just a way to indicate a number? How times have changed. These days, that little crisscross symbol has an entirely new function and a new name: a hashtag.
What are Hashtags? – Put simply, hashtags are identifiers that are used to group together posts on social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) that relate to similar topics. Say you want to go onto Twitter and find/follow all of the posts about the Super Bowl. You can search for #superbowl, and any public posts that include that identifier will show up in your search results. Unlike a full internet search, where you would go to a search engine like Google or Yahoo and search for the term “Super Bowl,” then get links to a bunch of websites, instead, you search for a hashtag within a specific site. The results for #SuperBowl in Twitter will be different than the results in Instagram.
A Secondary (and Less Functional) Use of Hashtags – Incidentally, hashtags have also taken on a secondary purpose: punchline. Often now, you’ll see people post about some topic, then to punctuate the underlying emotion, or add an afterthought or meta commentary about the post, they include a hashtag. For example, you could post a picture of your smiling, food-covered toddler on Instagram with the caption, “We’re pretty sure she liked the spaghetti! #bathtime #laundrytimetoo”. You say something with the post, then add a little extra commentary with hashtags. In cases like this, the intent of the hashtag is not to group your post with other posts of the same topic, but to quickly and succinctly add a funny, poignant or impactful gist to your comment.
The Possibilities are Limitless – Anyone can make a hashtag, but there are a few rules and practices that go along with creating a hashtag: letters and numbers are okay, but no spaces or punctuation (except dashes and underscores); capital letters can be used to show separation between words without affecting the function of the hashtag (i.e., #SesameStreet and #sesamestreet are seen as identical in the eyes of the internet, but the former might look a little nicer); try to keep each hashtag short and to-the-point; using too many hashtags can dilute the impact of your post, so choose wisely. But beyond that, the possible hashtags you could come up with are boundless as the World Wide Web itself.
Soooo…What Does This All Have to Do With the 3-Day? – As you (hopefully) have noticed, the 3-Day has been using hashtags in its posts all year to pinpoint its place in the social media space. Hashtag #The3Day has been all over Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as a way to identify and group together posts about our event—ones that come from us, as well as posts that come from our followers and supporters. Aside from the primary #The3Day hashtag, we also have hashtags for each individual event (#MI3Day, #TC3Day, #PHL3Day, #SEA3Day, #ATL3Day, #DFW3Day and #SD3Day). Hashtags allow you (and us) to easily browse through our social media platforms to find other people who are talking about the 3-Day. Or should we say #The3Day.
Instagram Photo Challenges – One specific hashtag-driven activity that the 3-Day has started is an on-event photo challenge for each of the seven 3-Day events. Starting on the day before each 3-Day begins, and continuing until the following Monday (5 days total), we’ve asked our participants and supporters to post photos on Instagram with a certain theme and hashtag each day. For example, the theme for Day 2 (Saturday) of each event is “Endurance,” so on that day, we want you to post pictures of what that word means to you, and include the hashtag #the3day_endurance. At the end of each day, the 3-Day social media team searches the specific daily hashtag and picks a few shots to share on our Instagram page too. But meanwhile, anyone can search the hashtags and see what other people are posting too!
For some, the use of hashtags has been an easy skill to pick up, but for others, it may take a little more time to get the hang of it. That’s okay! You can get a lot out of social media with or without hashtags. If you have questions about hashtag use on the 3-Day, or the 3-Day’s social presence in general, please post on Facebook or tweet us. See you in #cyberspace!