Hashtags are the punctuation of modern society, showing up as the guide and the final word in social media. We hashtag emotions, activities, events and even political discussions, so that we can easily and quickly find the conversations we want to get involved in.
We interject them into spoken conversation, ironically, to highlight an issue that’s meaningful to us. We use them for comedy, we use them for drama, and we use them just because they’re that easy.
But is it possible to own a hashtag? Can you lay claim to it, make it yours, prevent anyone else from using it for a different purpose? The answer is, unsurprisingly, more complex than a simple yes or no. Let’s take a look at how to register a hashtag.
Can you own a hashtag?
Let’s clarify what we mean by owning a hashtag. It’s not quite the same as owning your website domain, for example. There, you buy a specific sequence of characters, usually to match the name of your business, which you then use to direct people to your website.
Nobody else can legally use that sequence of characters to direct people to their product, service or personal content. If they try, that equates to hacking, and it is illegal right around the world.
Hashtag ownership can’t be equated to this. Regardless of what you do to register your hashtag, there’s nothing stopping someone else from legally using it. They may use it to contribute to your conversation, or they may use it for something else entirely, and even if it wildly diverges from your original intent, they are allowed to do this.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some kind of hashtag etiquette. It’s generally considered inappropriate to use someone else’s hashtag for a different purpose, especially if that hashtag is highlighting something socially or politically important, but that’s an entirely different post we’ll get into later.
Can you claim a hashtag?
The only way to lay claim to a hashtag is to be the first to use it for a specific purpose. Even so, it needs to be recognizable as belonging to you, and shouldn’t be so generic that claiming it makes you look silly.
For example, if company A is hosting an event called McSalty’s Dirt Bike Bonanza and they want to create a bit of hype around it, they could use a detailed hashtag like #DirtBikeBonanza2017, or #McSaltyDirtFest to add to their conversations about it. While it’s unlikely that someone else will be hosting an identically named event, it could happen, so being the first to use it allows McSalty’s to “lay claim” to the hashtag.
Can you register a hashtag?
Again, like with the previous two questions, the answer is, yes, sort of, but…
There are several sites, including Twubs and Hashtags.org that allow you to register your new hashtag. While this still doesn’t give you any kind of legal recourse over someone else using it, if it does come down to a dispute, you can resolve it by showing when you registered it.
Sites like these can also be useful when you’re busy working out what exactly you’d like to use for your hashtag, as you can easily see whether someone else has registered one like you want to use, giving you the opportunity to settle on a different tag instead.
Check your tags
On that last point, we always like to remind people that you should always double check your hashtags before putting them to use. If they are already being used, at best your messaging could get lost in a larger, older conversation, and at worst, you could end up being accused of hashtag hijacking. It always pays to check your hashtag before use.
Have any more questions about how to use hashtags to their full effect for your online marketing? Tell us in the comments.
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