In the digital language of emoticons and LOL acronyms, hashtags are now solidly embedded as a cultural shorthand—something akin to “quotes” around a topic or idea. Created by Chris Messina in 2007, the hashtag (#) has moved from an insider’s tool on Twitter, to common parlance both online and off. From CNN to American Idol, it seems #everythinghasahashtag. I don’t blame Messina for its ubiquitous use. I blame Charlie Sheen. Remember #winning?
Hashtags are frequently used by advertisers who want to make their brand more searchable on Twitter, and to encourage viral promotion.
A great example of using a hashtag offline to encourage online viral behavior comes from Farmer’s Insurance. For the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races the #Farmers5 hashtag will grace the bumper of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet.
This marks the first time a NASCAR sponsor will feature a hashtag decal on a racecar – a prime example of the evolving influence of social media on the sport.
The hashtag is intended to be a new conversation mechanism where fans can interact with driver Kasey Kahne and each other about the race’s unfolding events. Farmers will contribute to the chat with relevant driving-related tidbits and helpful facts for drivers.
The hashtag will also have placement on the pit wall, Kasey’s helmet, and will replace Farmers Insurance logos seen by the in-car camera.
Ryon Harms, Director of Social Media for Farmers, continuously innovates ways to integrate social media and engage the public into the company’s corporate partnerships. "We know that Kasey Kahne (@KaseyKahne) fans are some of the most passionate fans in NASCAR," says Ryon Harms, Director of Social Media for Farmers. "With this hashtag we hope to help Kasey's fans channel that passion and connect with each other in a powerful new way."
And, if all goes well during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, perhaps Farmers will be able to add Charlie Sheen’s hashtag to the bumper: