This is not the # you are looking for.

Mobile hashtag horizontal concept on blue background

Remember when the #’s main use was redoing awkward voice messages? Me neither but I guess that’s the beauty of being a millennial! All kidding aside, the popularization of the hashtag is one of the most remarkable rises in digital culture.

Considering its worldwide appeal, the hashtag has come a long way from its C programming language origins. So where did all this come from? What caused the hashtag’s rise to prominence?

Was it Twitter? Steve Jobs? Or maybe it was a government initiative to track public interest.

Actually, it was one, Chris Messina, who revolutionized the symbol. Back in 2007, Chris tweeted out a suggestion for grouping similar topics on Twitter by using the pound symbol.

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While Chris may have inadvertently created the hashtag, it was Stowe Boyd who coined the term. Just days later, Stowe took to his blog to teach his readers about this phenomia he discovered.

It took almost 2 years for Twitter to finally embrace the hashtag as part of its culture. In July 2009, Twitter began hyperlinking hashtagged phrases, creating the glorious metadata we all know and love today.

Since then the popularized symbol has continued to snowball. Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and our personal lives are only a small example of the hashtag takeover.

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But despite its whimsical use, the emergence of hashtags is one the most influential inventions in digital communication and particularly in digital marketing. Brands alone are responsible for some of the most popular and tactical uses of the hashtag.

Having the collective opinion of the general public at your fingertips is a fascinating and valuable tool. Want to see what the world is buzzing about; just check your Trending Hashtags.

Where hashtags go from here is anyone’s guess. Will they taper out and be replaced? Will they be adopted into new mediums? My guess is that hashtags will continue to expand into new faucets, further cementing itself as a benchmark in pop culture.

My thing is for sure though, hashtags will always be a valuable resource for the savvy marketer and lover of internet trends. So next time you search #CatsOfInstagram, say a silent thanks to Chris Messina. Without his offhand suggestion, you’d have to get your cat fix the ol’ fashioned way,  #GoogleImages.