#Twitter – The Rise of the Hashtag

Across the world, if you were to step into the random home of nearly any computer user and explore their bookmarks, you would likely find a number of social networking websites. Even more likely, at the top or near the top of that list would be Twitter. But what exactly is Twitter? It’s not just an average social networking website. When I want to upload a photo album of my family vacation for my relatives to see, or chat with high school friend that I haven’t seen in a few years, Twitter is not the option I turn to. Instead, it is used in a very different way, one that no other social network has been able to match.

The Trends

What did you think of the latest blockbuster movie released this week? What are you watching on TV right now? Can you believe what happened during the basketball playoff game? All of these topics are examples of what might be a “trend” on Twitter. Often grouped with the “#” symbol to form what is called a “hashtag,” any topic or phrase can gain popularity through Twitter user posts and offer unbiased opinions and reactions on almost anything. When that same hashtag (or any keyword or phrase) is posted by a large amount of users, it becomes “trending” and even has a chance to make it to Twitter’s front page.

The Effect

So a topic is “trending,” but does that even matter? Of course, and it means that Twitter is more of an effective tool than most people think. Personally, I check the different trends every couple of hours, just to see if I can find something interesting. If a particularly excellent play just happened during the World Cup, for example, you can bet that there will be thousands of people posting how they felt about it on Twitter. By posting from my account on that same topic, I am also giving people the chance to view my opinion and reaction on the matter. With millions of users, there is no better way to let your voice be heard. Larger companies will also often post a “tweet” about a new product, and invite Twitter users to post their own comments and feedback about said product. With literally millions of users able to provide a response, you could have your market research finished in no time.

The Future

In just the past few years, Twitter has shown us that there is no better way to find out what people like, dislike, and find important, than through their network. As social networking continues to become a bigger part of our lives, what is “trending” today, may be our future tomorrow.

Image credit: Rosaura Ochoa via Flickr.

Twitter is a fantastic tool for gauging the opinion of the masses and as such is a great means of monitoring audience response. The likes of Crowdcomms.com take audience response to the next level by providing bespoke smartphone apps tailored to any event to ensure maximum crowd participation.