hashtag tracking history

Tracking the History of Hashtags, or Historical Hashtag Tracking

You’ll have to excuse the wordplay in the title, but we just couldn’t resist! Hashtag tracking is a recent development, as the “hashtag” as an identifier has its origins in 1970 assembly language, to denote “immediate address mode”. It was called a “hash symbol” way back then.

In 1978 it was used in the C programming language for special keywords, and later used in IRC networks to label groups and topics. Chris Messina, an Open Source Advocate, is credited with the first hashtag tweet in Twitter, when he said:

how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
—Chris Messina, (“factoryjoe”), August 23, 2007

Stowe Boyd coined the term “hash tag” in 2007, when he wrote a blog post about “Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings”. And in 2009, Twitter started to hyperlink all hashtags in tweets to Twitter search results. “Trending Topics” were introduced in 2010.

Since then hashtags have taken off in all social media, appear on products, in television broadcasts, political events, and on advertising. Brands such as Gatorade have begun registering hashtag phrases, although there is some debate in legal circles whether hashtag trademark registering will hold up in court – especially when it represents a phrase that is considered common language (someone named Donald Trump tried to trademark “You’re Fired” years ago, and lost the case).

Emplify tracks hashtags in both Twitter and Instagram. Try it out for free here.

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hashtag tracking

Hashtag Tracking Fight Over London Bridge

We launched our Instagram hashtag tracking tool over a month ago and have been enjoying the inspirational photographs on it since.

We wanted to find out how Instagram compared to Twitter, as far as reach, engagement, and content. After tracking the hashtag “#LondonBridge” on both platforms for a while, here’s what we’ve learned.

  1. Twitter still has higher reach than Instagram, on average.

Of the messages collected, there are 1,306 tweets and 2,435 Instagram posts mentioning #londonbridge. However, Twitter spots a whopping 3 million potential impressions with just 1,300 tweets while Instagram gets only 834k impressions with almost twice the messages. This means that on average a tweet has 8 times more impressions than an Instagram post in our sample. We find this trend to be generally true for most hashtags that we monitor – that Twitter’s reach is still better than Instagram’s thanks to its higher average number of followers per author.

What does this mean to you: You are more likely to be heard on Twitter than on Instagram at the moment. So it probably makes sense to make Twitter your priority if you’re just getting started.

  1. Instagram wins on quality engagement.

While Twitter won the first round on reachability, Instagram steals the trophy back when it comes to engagement. Not only engagements (replies, likes/favorites) are higher on average, Instagram also scores much more replies (almost 10x). We find Instagram to be less spammy in general and that could explain the higher engagement.

What does that mean to you: Choose Instagram over Twitter if you can afford to – a.k.a. you have both inspiring content and the time to engage with your users.


  1. News on Twitter; Inspirations on Instagram.


This shouldn’t surprise anyone: Twitter is still the best medium for news. During our sampling period, a trespass incident happened at the London bridge station and caused delays on Southeastern’s rail services. The #LondonBridge hashtag was flooded with tweets about the incident on Twitter while Instagram went quieter than usual. This is a great example of Twitter being the news channel and Instagram being an inspirational one – perhaps the delay prevented tourists to reach the London bridge to snap those breathtaking pictures!

What does this mean to you: If your campaign is time-sensitive or newsworthy, be sure to leverage Twitter. On the other hand, get on Instagram if you’re doing something inspirational.

So which platform will you use for your next campaign? Let us know of your reasons in the comments section below.


Image: George Rex.

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The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Analytics

Now that Instagram analytics and Instagram hashtag tracking is becoming more popular, we thought it would be a good idea to write about the type of insights you can get from monitoring one of the most popular social media platforms on the planet (for a list of tools go to our blog post here).

See Total Instagram Messages and the Number of Unique Authors
The total number of Instagram messages in a given time period can be determined, as well as the number of unique authors who created the messages. This gives you an idea of the vitality of a particular hashtag or keyword topic: fewer unique authors may mean the people creating the messages are more influential and have a large reach.

Monitoring Messages Per Hour
The number of messages per hour gives you an idea of the velocity or volume that a topic in Instagram has. A number that’s off the charts means it’s hot, hot, hot!

How many times are users interacting and engaging with the topic? This is another indication of how important and viral the topic is.

Top Followers
The top influencers who are following the hashtag or keyword. This information could be used to create a campaign that would engage people who have a wider social reach, or help a brand reach out to people who are “ambassadors” of their brand.

Are users perceiving the message or image as positive or negative? Sentiment gives a quick snapshot of how favourable a topic is with an audience. It may also indicate customer dissatisfaction or “social proof”.

Message Type
Another viral indicator. How are messages created? Are the messages original, or are a large portion of them shared? More sharing might indicate more novelty, whereas more original messages could mean more participation.

Volume Over Time
What are the anomalies over time? Instagram messages may peak on certain days or fall off during business hours. Sentiment over time lets you determine when messages are most positive or negative.

Top Hashtags
Top hashtags indicate what hashtags you should use to target users, especially if they have a high popularity or high positive rating. Hashtag clouds give more information about the terms used around the topic and also highlights their importance relative to each other.

Top Influencer
Who the major influencers of the topic are users who can make the biggest impact in affecting the overall tone of the messages. Influencers can be ranked by users with the highest number of followers, or users with most authorship on the messages.

What are the most impactful messages? Instagram messages panels (in real time) show the latest Instagram pictures and messages with hashtags and then filters them by recency, which messages were shared the most, and which messages are most favorited. A great way to see exactly what is going on and see what people are posting and engaging with as it happens!


Photo Credit: Ryan McGuire

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