Although they broadcast to readers primarily on their blogs, commercial lifestyle bloggers in Singapore almost always adopt a plethora of social media platforms to complement their blogs. Many embed live Twitter and Instagram feeds into their blog templates, with conspicuous links to other profiles like Facebook. While content on these microblogging feeds is updated more frequently than that on blogs, one of the main purposes of these platforms is to direct readership or ‘hits’ to their personal webpage.
Hashtags and tags are more commonly used on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook than on blogs. This involves adding a hash sign before a word or short phrase allowing relevant posts to be searchable and filtered from the mass. Some of these are generic such as “#foodporn” for meal shots and “#ootd” for outfit of the day shots, while others are event specific or for exclusive social groups such as “#cadburySG” and “#gushcloud”.
Apart from increasing the searchability of and web archiving their posts, I posit that bloggers appropriate hashtags and tags to establish their social currency in four main ways. These are branding, bonding, seen, and scene.
Hashtags can be used as a mark of product branding. Corporations who engage bloggers for advertorials usually arrange for them to hashtag their social media posts as a means to aggregate disparate posts published by multiple bloggers and to allow the public to follow the campaign. These include “#bba10makesitbetter” by Blackberry, “#sunsilkgoodtimes” by Sunsilk, and “#AddMomOnFacebook” by StarHub. Clicking on these hashtags enable users to view an archive of advertorials and publicity material posted by various bloggers.
Hashtags may also be used as a means to bond with readers. Some bloggers occasionally encourage readers to interact with them via “shout outs” or “follow backs”. In the former, bloggers encourage readers to publicise their social media accounts in exchange for being mentioned by the blogger in a post. In the latter, bloggers ask readers to get their friends to follow the blogger’s various social media accounts in exchange for being followed by the blogger herself. Other bloggers request for readers to hashtag their names on posts that they wish to share with them. A usual exchange is as follows:
“#stephanieissexy! Repost and ten lucky followers will be mentioned!”
“Hey guys! Hashtag #huiminisfollowing! The five top posters will be followed back!”
“Anything you want me to see? Hashtag #limweiwei okay!”
These publicity drives usually give bloggers a spike in their readership and followers in a short span of time. In addition to branding and bonding, hashtags also allows bloggers to be ‘seen’ and to mark their presence at a ‘scene’.
“Upload leh”, tag me can?”, “eh I want it on my wall also” are common chimes when bloggers take group photographs and remind each other to ‘tag’ everyone in a photo. This allows photographs taken by others to show up or be ‘seen’ on the individual blogger’s social media accounts as a means to publicly document their presence among fellow bloggers at various events. As a visual variation of a narration of the self, being ‘seen’ crafts a blogger’s digital personhood, allowing them to constitute their membership in a community and draw interpersonal relationships in these networks (Ochs & Caps 1996), thus elevating their social status and expanding their ‘material presence’.
It is also crucial to remain relevant and connected to the ‘scene’, that is, the highlight and bustle of popular activity such as grand openings, parties, concerts, and other exclusive events. Event hashtags such as “#gcweekends” and “#Nuffnangis6” indicate the blogger’s presence at these functions with fellow bloggers, in a bid to show readers that one is “at the right parties”, “mixing with the right people”. In order to effectively enact one’s presence at a ‘scene’, it is important to hashtag with immediacy throughout an event as a live record of a blogger’s actions and thought trails (Reed 2005). This is especially so because most event hashtags become out-of-date very quickly after the occasion ends and the buzz dies down. As a mark of ‘Internet street cred” or virtual world reputation, tagging and hashtagging situates bloggers in the scene, places them in the ranks of popular others and adds to their social currency.
These are just some of the scripts that bloggers have created for the digital dissemination of their social media content. In addition to creating a personalised web archive of content and increasing the searchability of their posts, hashtags and tags have been appropriated to establish web branding for bloggers’ clients, to bond and interact with readers, to constitute their membership within the blog community and craft their digital personhood, and to perform their virtual world reputation and relevance in the industry.
This piece is revamped from a lecture I gave to the Gender Collective, National University of Singapore, on 11 October 2013.