The other week my grandmother asked me what those words were that always appeared in the right-hand corner of her television. Certainly it’s nearly impossible to turn on a television these days and not spot a hashtag phrase there, but it’s strange to consider because, really, this now common sight in the television medium embedded itself in that right-hand corner with very little fanfare. Seeming not to deem there to be much need for explanation about the arrival of these terms, networks simply trusted that the Tweeters they were reaching out to would know what to do, that a majority would be aware of the procedure of typing a hashtag (#) in front of a word, so Twitter will transform it into a link. This link would allow interested parties to browse all of the other recently posted tweets that included the same word or words. Essentially, it’s a way of grouping messages about a topic together for easy access.
What this enables is for people on the site to find and jump into conversations about topics they feel like discussing by looking for a corresponding hashtag. Removing the connotations of watching shows being a solo activity, even if you don’t have friends who tune in and share your fandom, you can now still have a place to get all your opinions out to an interested and like-minded audience. The hashtag is simply the phrase the group uses as a means to meet and culminate around. Responding to this trend, networks are attempting to take charge and encourage the use of a universal hashtag of their choosing to identify with their individual shows (the phrase that appears in the right hand corner of your television). It is their hope that enough Tweets including the same expression will be generated in the period that a show’s playing to become one of Twitter’s trending topics. Earning the designation of “trending” acts as a sign to Twitter users that this is a program they should be checking out because it offers something to chat about. It signifies popularity and acts as a way to garner public attention, but popularity and publicity is not always of the desired “positive” variety. After all, trending topics do not differentiate between praise for a pilot and outrage, both of which can greatly influence viewers who are on the fence about giving a new show a try (affecting the amount of monetary profit). Twitter, the micro-blogging social network created by Jack Dorsey which started on March 21, 2006, may have forever changed how television networks communicate with the viewers of their shows, but networks are still working out how that change can best be used to their advantage and avoid instances where it could harm.