We are all getting used to reading and ignoring the # sign, and making sense of words strung together, like #plansforfridaynight: we are learning to read it as “plans for Friday night”.
As we get used to seeing these tags, they are getting more integrated into the writing of the post itself, instead of appearing at the end of a post to simply identify a topic.
At its most simple level it’s interconnection. When you tag a friend in a Facebook update or a Twitter post, they will find out that you tagged them. Think of it like talking about someone in the third person, when they are standing right next to you. You might not be talking directly to them, but you are including them in your conversation. It also allows other friends to potentially make a new connection because you have given them the social media equivalent of an informal introduction.
From a networking point of view, if you tag someone and say they helped you with a business project, that might alert another one of your friends that this person could be a resource. It is a wonderful way to share information and give informal recommendations. This builds and strengthens business relationships. If you are someone who is generous with tagging, then people will be more likely to be generous with you in return. And from here, your network grows from 1 person to 10, to 100, to 1000.
Hashtags are a little different than tags because they are associating your post with a keyword. However, the idea behind dispersing the information is the same. Instead of tagging a person, you are tagging a trend, a keyword or an idea. Now anyone who is interested in that tag can connect with you, and the shared interest is facilitating that connection. If it is a business concept, then the more people see you using that tag, the more likely they are to associate you with that industry or interest.
The use of tags and hashtags as integrated elements of posts and updates reiterates the social component of social networking. People are not simply thinking in terms of sharing their experiences or thoughts, they are also sharing their friends, their connections and their resources. They are interacting with the potential inter-connectivity supported by social networking. The integration of tags and hashtags in writing shows that we are thinking beyond ourselves and our immediate social circles. We are thinking in terms of more holistic community interaction.