Say ‘I do’ to the #hashtag

inside-hashtagWhen Twitter’s social technology expert, Chris Messina, came up with the idea of using a hashtag in August of 2007, I have to wonder if he had any idea how quickly this would take off?

To this day, I know people of all ages who don’t understand hashtags and their purpose. Their usefulness and widespread practicality are everywhere. Case in point, weddings.

Picture it. Early May 2016. Springfield, MO. I am standing in line at my cousin’s wedding reception. Flowers, candles, and sparkly things surround me. I spot a sign encouraging us to tag our photos on social media with #HaydenGettingHitched and chuckle.

Within a few days of the wedding, I was excited to use that hashtag on multiple social media platforms to view images of Amber’s big day. You see, I come from a pretty small family. I am an only child and was the only grandchild on my mother’s side until Amber was born. I guess you could say that the #HaydenGettingHitched experience was the closest thing to a sister getting married I will ever really have in my life.

When I asked Amber about the hashtag experience, she had these words for me: “I’m happy we decided to do one. It was a fun way for people to tag us in photos so we can look at them all in one place. There were a few people that used it, but honestly not as many as I thought did. We had two signs with it. Either people didn’t see it, didn’t want to use it, or didn’t know what it meant.”

That last part got to me. I started to question why people aren’t really aware of what hashtags are and why using them can be helpful. Then it hit me, it’s another area of social media that we, as educators, are not hitting on nearly enough with our students.

Hashtags are a wonderful way to tag keywords, phrases, brand names, trending news events, and topics so our content is easily found when our audience does a search. I know at Blue Jay Journal TV (www.bluejayjournal.com), we could really improve upon our use of hashtags in social media posts. It’d be a better way to brand ourselves and make our posts easier to locate. It’s something that I bet a lot of high school media programs could improve upon.

However, me being me, once I had all these thoughts, I had to learn more. Was this just a fluke my cousin used a hashtag at her wedding? Ends up, not at all. There are even “wedding hashtag generators” online. I started asking more questions and found out this is incredibly popular. If you think hashtags aren’t in wide use, think again.

Dana is a photographer and owner of Photogenics on Location in Washington, MO. (http://www.photogenicsonlocation.com/): I have noticed more couples using hashtags as a way to see pictures of their wedding day that they may not have! We actually attended a wedding where they placed selfie sticks on the table with their hashtag. Remember the old disposable film cameras that couples used to place on the tables at receptions? This seems like an easier way for everyone to see the event and it’s a much lower cost!

Molly is a newlywed elementary teacher who just returned from her honeymoon: “We did do a wedding hashtag. I used it for events and random pictures leading up to the big day and we will continue to use it for other life events. It’s like a digital scrapbook with all your posted pictures, as well as other people’s posted pictures. I don’t develop pictures often anymore, so using a hashtag is a good way to easily go back and look. All it takes is a quick search.”

Hannah is a Certified Nursing Assistant currently planning her wedding: “Wedding hashtags are so fun! Mine is #thbaileysayido. It is a convenient way to track all of the pictures used for that event. When people take photos at my wedding and use my hashtag, I can go look at all the posts and see how much fun they had! I already use the hashtag throughout the wedding planning. I can go back and see the engagement, when I asked my bridesmaids to be in the wedding, and just anything that has to do with all the planning! This is the ultimate way to preserve these memories.”

It would appear that for now hashtags are here in a big way. It’s time we add how to use them, create them, and more to our ever-evolving curriculums. Until next time, I am looking forward to writing and reading more #jeadigitalmedia tips and tricks! Happy #hashtagging!

Michelle Turner

Michelle Turner is an award-winning Broadcast and Photography Instructor at Washington High School in Washington, Missouri. She has advised Blue Jay Journal TV since 1998. Michelle is the 2015 MIPA Missouri High School Journalism Teacher of the Year and the 2016 Journalism Education Association’s National Broadcast Adviser of the Year. As a speaker, author and educator, Michelle encourages students to find meaningful stories and practice ethical journalism while never forgetting to make a connection with their intended audience.

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