You don’t have to be a millennial to have heard the term “hashtag.” For any social media newbies, a hashtag is a word or phrase following the # sign, like #PublicRelations. Hashtags began as a means to gather and collect posts pertaining to the same thing all in one place. Although they’re still used to accumulate common posts, they’re being used more and more as a means to spread news, ideas or trends – a virtual word-of-mouth, if you will. Recently, I’ve seen the power of the hashtag on my college campus.

EveryoneinBlackIn 2013, the athletic department invented a hashtag for the Baylor vs. Oklahoma game as an incentive to draw a full crowd, because it was a Thursday night game. The game would be Baylor’s first-ever black out game, and within a few days, #EveryoneInBlack had spread like wildfire. Not only did it practically spread the word to fans to wear black, it strategically increased the anticipation and excitement for the game. The stadium sold out, and Baylor won 41-12. When Baylor’s black out game came around again this year, fans knew exactly what to do.

But hashtags aren’t just for millennials. LPR’s clients use hashtags to build awareness of trends, trade shows and products. EMerge Alliance, a client that focuses on innovation and bringing DC power to buildings, has been using #dcpower in its posts since 2009. The Alliance didn't initiate the hashtag, but when the organization includes it in posts, it is archived with similar posts from other industry leaders. If a Twitter user searches #dcpower, EMerge Alliance is at the forefront of the conversation.

Earlier this year, DFW Airport used #A380toDFW to generate excitement for the arrival of the giant A380 jet to DFW Airport. DFW is one of only 20 airports able to accommodate the world’s largest passenger plane – it was a BIG deal. Aviation fans, passengers and media all used and followed #A380toDFW to track the plane before, during and after its arrival.

People like to feel heard. Hashtags create an inclusive call-to-action for the public. For the company, organization or team, it creates interaction, gets people talking and generates publicity.

When used strategically, hashtags can be effective and powerful. Whether it’s to spread the word quickly or to encourage posts and conversation, using a hashtag can seriously get you or your company on the map – it’s not called “trending” for nothing.