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Hoist Your Hashflag

Posted 28 July 2015 10:00 AM by Alex Carruth

With over 645 million registered Twitter accounts, the popular social media outlet has become a force to be reckoned with in regards to keeping up with current events. If you are a regular Twitter user like me, you have a number of go-to hashtags that you follow. But what about hashflags?

Originally introduced during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, hashflags are essentially a specific country’s flag transformed into an emoji icon. World Cup fans could generate one by simply tweeting a participating country’s abbreviation (e.g., #USA, #ITA, #ESP, etc.). Now used to engage viewers with their favorite sports teams, politicians and current events, hashflags have come back better than ever in 2015.

The Year of the Hashflag

Emojis’ rising popularity is the result of platforms like Twitter and Instagram, which recognized and leveraged them as powerful visual assets. As Moxie’s Kevin Tyler shared in a recent blog on the subject, emojis “symbolize the rise of a new language.”

In 2015, hashflags have been used for major events ranging from political elections to professional sports. First appearing in April of this year, the hashflag was modified from its original form — a simple flag — to represent something even more impactful than a World Cup championship: Political parties participating in the U.K. General Election. The intention was to attract millennials and, as one article states, “to add a bit of colour to the campaign.” Jimmy Nsubuga of Metro.co.uk said, “If Twitter’s new General Election ‘hashflags’ don’t convince you to vote, then nothing will.”

Unique hashflags were developed for all twelve political parties represented in the General Election, plus a thirteenth icon for those who voted — #ivoted — pictured below.

The U.K. General Election hashflags were used by more than 100,000 unique users. The information gathered by the same study enabled analysts to track everything from the number of tweets mentioning the election to which political party had the most hashflag hits.

Yet hashflags are not just for the international Twitter consumer. Making the transition from the U.K. and the World Cup, hashflags arrived on America’s shores with a slam-dunk strategy. 

In June, the U.S. introduced hashflags for the NBA Finals. Unique hashflags were created for the NBA and NBA Finals, as well as the teams themselves. Combining people’s love of sports, Twitter leveraged the best of its previous World Cup and U.K. General Election hashflags to engage fans across the country.

By capitalizing on the NBA Finals, Twitter officially teamed up with a major sports league for the first time. Part of the partnership was a custom timeline accessed by searching #NBA or #NBAFinals on Twitter. The timeline displayed a live feed of fans using the hashtags, a commentary section displaying only what select experts were tweeting about the finals and a video section filled with behind-the-scenes and slow-motion footage. Utilizing the custom timeline, the hashflag logos of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors were used more than 4.6 million times combined throughout the games.

Hashflag to Hashlogo

From the U.K. General Election to the NBA finals, hashflags have grown from showcasing national pride to uniting fans behind their favorite team (read: brand). The hashflag has evolved from a simple flag to the “hashlogo.”

Hoist Your Hashflags

Although a product-based brand has yet to leverage the hashflag, I am positive it is only a matter of time. For now, it is a mystery as to how hashflags are chosen, but once the rules and guidelines are established, prepare for the flood of hashflags on your Twitter feed.

As the popularity of hashflags continues, here is a list of things to remember:

  1. Hashflags are temporary. The lifespan of a hashflag only lasts as long as the event it is representing.
  2. Hashflags don’t count as characters. Best practices dictate 120 characters for brands.
  3. Hashflags’ real estate is currently limited. For now, the icons only appear on desktops and the Twitter iPhone app.
  4. Hashflags have a home. If you want to know which hashflags are available, just visit hashfla.gs.
  5. And let it be known: Hashflags for the U.S. 2016 election are already in the works.

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