How the Pound Sign Became Known as the Hashtag

Thursday, June 13, 2013 by Stephen Devitt

Pound Sign Vs. HastagDo you remember when the # symbol was just a button on your telephone?

I do, and you probably do too. For the longest time, I referred to the pound sign as the "number symbol." You'd see the symbol when a business' phone number or fax number was listed (e.g. phone #: 555-5555). The pound sign is also used by automated phone systems (voicemail, customer service lines, etc.). While the symbol is still used in these ways, it's much much more prevalent in the social media world today. And it goes by a different namethe hashtag.

You see hashtags in commercials, on t-shirts, in many forms of advertising, and on Facebook (just rolled out yesterday!), but their popularity began on Twitter.

The use of hashtags on Twitter dates back to the summer of 2007. Chris Messina, an early Twitter user, composed a tweet in August of 2007 asking what people thought of using # for organizing messages into groups. The idea grew from there, and hashtags are now embraced by Twitter users all over the world. 

Perhaps the coolest thing about a hashtag, is that anyone with a Twitter account can "start" ("create" may be a better word) one.

A few hastag pointers:

  • The maximum number of hashtags is three per tweet
  • Catchy, clear and consise is the way to go
  • All the characters cannot be numbers
  • Offensive language is frowned upon

When it comes to hashtags, you still might be thinking - "So, what's the point?"

Well, since hastags help you categorize messages on Twitter, they can prove to be a very useful marketing tool. Hashtags can assemble a large number of tweets under one thread allowing you to see who else is using the tag, and the context in which they are using it. Essentially, hashags create discussions.

To show an example of the conversation a hashtag can create, I'll use a tweet from @nikegolf, as they prepare for the launch of Tiger Woods' newest golf shoe.

Since July 1, 2009, all hashtags have been hyperlinked to Twitter search results for the word or phrase used in the hashtag. So, when you click on the TW14 hashtag (or do a search for "#TW14" on Twitter) you can see the latest (or all) tweets that use this particular hashtag. Nike Golf is using the hashtag to start spark conversation from golfers about the design of the new shoe, whether they plan on buying a pair, new elements of the shoe, etc. And letting one of the actual deisgners of the shoe answer questions in real-time is a pretty cool way to connect with consumers/fans.

Small businesses might not have have near the following that a global company like Nike has, but that doesn't mean they can't use Twitter, and hashtags to increase their patronage.

Before you beginning coming up with your own hashtags, keep the following in mind.

  1. Has this hastag been used before?
  2. Incorporate industry specific keywords.
  3. Make sure the hashtag is relevant to the tweet in which it is used.
  4. Be creative!

A good source for hashtag info is, a site where you can find a ton of info and articles on hashtag nuances, and you can even track your own hashtags or any other hashtag that interests you.

#BoostBrandAwareness #HarnessTheHashtag


Meet the Author

Stephen Devitt:

I've worked at Berry since December 2008. I started in the Marketing department, and have since worked in Inet Production, Customer Service and Digital Fulfillment. Writing has been an interest of mine for a while, and I'm looking forward to contributing some useful/imformative content to the company blog.

I'm a very passionate sports fan (The Ohio State Buckeyes, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals), avid golfer, sneaker enthusiast and hip-hop nut.

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Comments for How the Pound Sign Became Known as the Hashtag

Sunday, October 13, 2013 by Robert Steele:
I've worked in computers for over 33 years, and those who I've worked around and myself have always referred to # sign as the pound sign. I've never heard of it called hash tag, until just recently.
In my opinion there are way too many kids texting & tweeting instead of reading. But then, that wouldn't be fashionable. :o)
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 by Leigh:
I work in Emergency Medical Service Dispatch and we use the 'pound' sign dozens, if not, hundreds of times during a shift. It is referred to as 'pound' and used as part of apartment entry codes. I cringe at the thought that, someday soon, I will get a caller who tells me to have the ambulance crew buzz into their home at "hashtag..." and who will have no idea what I mean when I say pound... In fact I can envision an entire comedy routine based on the inevitable misunderstandings that will ensue.

Seriously though, it's a 'pound sign' and has been a 'pound sign' for a long time. Whoever decided that this punctuation symbol needed another name is an idiot(if, for no other reason than he/she should have patented the idea and made some money for adding to the modern lexicon of useless, confusing and meaningless terms).
It's true, I am not a fan of the 'hastag' and will continue my faithfullness to good old pound.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 by george newman:
I'm old school and believe # is called a pound sign. Twitter should use a nondescript abbreviation for hashtag, eg. hshtg. or just tg
& forget the hash..
Saturday, December 14, 2013 by Dave:
My vote would be to just use the common pound sign and forget calling it a hash tag. I'm 72 years old and all of my working career it has been just the pound sign.
Thursday, January 2, 2014 by rich smith:
Well if Americans had invented the phrase it would have been called "poundtag". In the UK and other English speaking nations the # sign is called a "hash". In America for some reason it is called "pound". Elsewhere a pound sign is £. It’s like asking why has “soccer” become “football”. It is football everywhere else in the world and soccer in America.
Traditionally popular culture has always shipped out of America and very rarely has it shipped the other way, and when it does its tweaked to suit American culture, the internet doesn’t work like that so Americans are now starting to discover other English speaking cultures and mannerisms without them being Americanised for them first. Using and ‘s’ and not a ‘z’ in “Americanised” is another example of that. Welcome to the global community :-).
Monday, June 2, 2014 by erade:
i thought the pound sign on the telephone was name oglethorp, after the man who suggested it be put in that space on the telephone. now i see it called an hash tag

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