#Number sign 2.0 – how the hashtag defines a topic

If you put a hash before any word in a post or tweet, the word becomes a “tag”. The verb “tag” means to “mark” or “denote”.

#Number sign 2.0

From the number sign to a meta tag – the Swiss way

Are you part of the #number sign generation? Or do you have no idea what we are referring to? Then you are probably a digital native. The age of the #number sign was when we used to use telephone boxes, telexes and then (later) fax machines. Those were the days when a mobile was simply something you used to phone someone. But then came 2014 and # was voted word of the year in Switzerland. How on earth did that happen?

The amazing history of the sharp symbol

The symbol actually originated in music. Since the 12th century, we have been able to find it as a “sharp” on sheet music, where it raises a note by a semitone. In 1960, the sign appeared on the keys of telephone sets. In the 1970s, it then found its way into IT, initially as a control character in the programming language C. So far, so insignificant. Insignificant, that is, until 23 August 2007 when a small suggestion on Twitter was to change everything. “How do you feel about using # for groups, as in #barcamp?”, asked open source lawyer and net activist Chris Messina. That was the birth of the hashtag in social media. Since then it has been used to mark articles with meta tags and thus automatically link them to one another.

Hashtags now determine politics and marketing

On the major social media platforms, hashtags are becoming increasingly important for politics. Tagged millions of times, they reach users all over the world, give rise to huge communities and become trademarks of political movements. Recent examples include #MAGA (Make America Great Again) and #MeToo. Because posts and photos with smartly placed hashtags are forwarded, adopted and reused, they have become a subtle as well as effective political and marketing instrument to increase a brand’s presence online.

A hashtag campaign – maybe something for you?

Twitter and Instagram are effective channels for hashtag campaigns. These campaigns have to be concise in order to reach as many people as possible – short, emotional and with a credible reference to the company. Successful hashtags start off in social media and then become visible on all corporate media. But it is about much more than just attention. With a hashtag, you can take part in official discussions – a real opportunity to highlight your expertise. Might this kind of campaign be of help to you? Can your content become relevant in social networks and inspire followers?


Did you know that the technical term for a hashtag is in fact “octothorpe”. Octo in reference to the eight points in the figure. And since 2014, the word has featured in the OED. With its new meaning in the world of social media. And even though many of us still remember it as the good old number sign, it is the hashtag that is now all the rage. #Customer orientation.

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