The Hashtag Lifecycle

You know, Charlie Brown can still teach us lessons, you know. In the video above, you'll see him talk about the commercialization of the Christmas holiday. I know, what you're asking, how does this relate to twitter hashtags?

Tonight, Ryan Madanick, MD introduced the new twitter hashtag #medsm with his blog post entitled, "Introducing #medsm, a new unifying hashtag for the intersection of medicine and social media." He writes:

Therefore, #medsm is being introduced as a new umbrella hashtag for posts related specifically to healthcare and medicine topics.  The #medsm hashtag could be include content with links to studies, stories about patient care, etc.  The more broadly it becomes used, the more likely Twitter users will be able to identify your healthcare-specific content.

Everyone's familiar with the #hcsm hashtag which was originally defined as "healthcare communication and social media." It's true that this hashtag gets a little clogged up, and with its continued popularlity, it's getting difficult to filter through the useful information for me. And, don't get me wrong, the rest of this post is not for or against #medsm or #hcsm. Read on...

This really got me thinking of this question: Do twitter hashtags have a social media life cycle? The example that I'll use is our own #FMRevolution hashtag. Almost a year and a half ago, Dr. Jay Lee wrote this essay entitled, "#FMRevolution = Family Medicine Revolution" which clearly defined the lofty goals of the hashtag.

What has happened since then? What once started as a unique hashtag, now has moved to more of a "commericalization" of the hashtag where anyone talking about anything vaguely medical has been posting tweets marketed toward Family Docs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not whining. I will still continue to use the #FMRevolution hashtag. I think that this is part of the hashtag lifecycle, or anything that starts small. The question always becomes: What happens when this idea (meaning hashtag) scales up and becomes more visible?

Be careful what you wish for, because as the hashtag gets more popular, and as more people take notice, certain individuals will see this as a marketing opportunity, with less valuable tweets in the stream, and people trying to think up new hashtags to start the hashtag life cycle all over again.