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5 Popular Crowdsourced Hashtags, Their Twitter Birthdates, And How Brands Use Them Now

Hashtag_blogWhen you’re scrolling through your feed and see #TGIF about one zillion times on Friday afternoon at 4 PM, do you ever wonder where that hashtag originated? Who was the first person to think of that? And how are brands leveraging these ubiquitous hashtags to gain more engagement, discoverability, awareness, and audience relevance on Twitter?

I’m so glad you asked! Below, you’ll find five of the most popular hashtags on the market today, with rich examples of how brands are mining them for social media marketing gold.



The D.O.B: October 25, 2008 The Originator: “Wife and Mama” @Apple6reen  Definition: @Apple6reen initially used the #ThrowbackThursday hashtag to call out a back-in-the-day song she liked. The hashtag caught on in music-loving circles, really taking flight when music reporter Ernest Wilkins began using the hashtag regularly, encouraging other users to Tweet about their own favorites old school jams every Thursday.

#ThrowbackThursday has taken on a life of its own since, coupled with old photos and nostalgic words every Thursday across Twitter and beyond. Here’s the first instance of that evolved use for #ThrowbackThursday:

Creative Ways Brands Have Used It: 

      •  To connect followers to a musical artist with intimate, pre-fame content.

        • To show a little company pride and remind folks of their brand’s longstanding legacy.



    • As a direct appeal to followers for engagement, with the original “sharing great old songs” intention of the #ThrowbackThursday.




The D.O.B.: September 17, 2008 The Originator: Ed Tankersley Definition: Ed Tankersley was the first to use #blessed as a way to express gratitude for a heartfelt send-off from his job. Since then, #blessed has taken on religious and ironic undertones on its journey through Twitter. Creative Ways Brands Have Used It: 

        • To show off a sense of humor and, in doing so, humanize brand voice.


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The D.O.B: May 10, 2009 The Originator: John Cabrera, actor and filmmaker; Jeff Nelson, Canada-based freelance photographerDefinition: John first used the #selfie hashtag to organize a conversation between himself and his Twitter followers. Of course, his use of #selfie is not what we currently think of as a #selfie, a.k.a. picture of yourself.  The first use of #selfie in this way came from Jeff Nelson, with a link to a photograph of himself on Flickr:

Creative Ways Brands Have Used It: 

        • Encouraging followers to send their selfies in, driving engagement and traffic to the brand site.


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        • Generating engagement by leveraging celebrity star power.


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The D.O.B: January 17,2010 The Originator: Mega Chargers fan Niki Connor. Definition: Niki used the #sorrynotsorry hashtag to offer her sports opinion in a joking, snarky way.  This hashtag is typically used when insulting someone apologetically and with a sense of humor. Creative Ways Brands Have Used It: 

    • To make #sorrynotsorry a way to self-identify and let loose in alignment with brand sensibility — and drive Twitter engagement. Also, paired with a more specific campaign hashtag for prime discoverability.
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    • As a jumping-off and reaction point for a totally different hashtag, #ShineStrong, and campaign.


Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 2.16.56 PMThe D.O.B: November 30, 2007 The Originator: @cbgreenwood, self-described in his Twitter profile as “Global. Social. Webhead. Synapse bingo dancer. Satire. Triathlon. Chess. Drums. Absolutely no f* fuss here.” Definition: @cbgreenwood used the #tgif hashtag to express his joy at the last day of work.  T.G.I.F. stands for Thank God It’s Friday. This hashtag, as you can imagine, has really taken off. In fact, it is currently Friday at 2:38 PM PST, and #tgif has been mentioned more than 3,200 times in the past hour. Creative Ways Brands Have Used It: 

    • To associate themselves with the positivity that is TGIF: the glory (and partying) that is Post-Work Summer Friday.
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    • To savvily forecast weekend programming and events.
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    • To remain true to their brands while connecting directly with their audience’s immediate desire.
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How do you leverage hashtags for your brand’s purposes?

What role do hashtags have in your Twitter strategy, generally? Let me know in the comments below — or download our latest guide. Screenshot 2014-08-08 17.03.17

Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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