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Gabrielle Austin

As the wireless world expands, information is moving at an unprecedented rate across a seemingly endless number of channels. Online advertising is becoming an integral part of building a business and social media applications and networks are an easy way for companies to insert themselves into our lives. Corporations use hashtags to promote events, products or brand awareness, but some have started using unrelated hashtags in a bid to gain an expanded customer base.

One such hashtag is #goals, which allows people to post pictures and associate them with their life goals. Social media expert at Seneca College Bhupesh Shah believes this is a good thing, especially for females.

“I think it helps them communicate in a self-effacing way about what they aspire to be.”

The hashtag “satisfies people (and) the people that use it are the ones that keep it going,” adds Shah.

#Goals covers all imaginable aspects of life, from relationships to hair and makeup, food to schools, even vacations and pets. One place where you will see all types of goal images is on weheartit.com, a website where people can browse through a variety of inspirational images and share them on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or other social media platforms.

Former integrated marketing manager for We Heart It Monica Ha says “it’s a bedroom wall collage turned digital.” We see a lot of different versions of #goals on our site … it’s a very interesting cultural phenomenon.”

The three most popular versions of the hashtag are #relationshipgoals, #bodygoals and #squadgoals.

Lecturer in Management Sciences at the University of Waterloo Peter Carr says #goals allow people to paint a picture of themselves, engaging in personal branding. “The purpose of this hashtag is to let people say this is the type of person I am.”

Many brands use the hashtag to appeal to today’s generation and Ha recalls a time where a brand used We Heart It and the hashtag “friendshipgoals” to promote their business. “On the site, we have hashtag friendshipgoals and a brand was selling jewelry and clothing with fun captions on them.”

Several companies, including Netflix, Burger King and Cosmopolitan magazine use the popular hashtag to engage their target audiences. When it comes to hashtags, “The more brand specific the better,” says A5 media Content Director Kayla Searl. For example, the infamous “Netflix and Chill” phrase, a euphemism for sex, is often used on social media, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “hanging out.”

Although the streaming service didn’t start using it as a marketing tool until 2015, Searl says having a slogan with a ring to it is an important marketing tool. “The goal is to create a branded hashtag that’s only identifiable as your company,” says Searl.

R&B singer Chris Brown and his former girlfriend Karrueche Tran posing in matching coats. Photo credit: XXL Magazine/Chris Brown’s Instagram

R&B singer Chris Brown and his former girlfriend Karrueche Tran posing in matching coats. Photo credit: XXL Magazine/Chris Brown’s Instagram

Pursebox, a Canadian company and online handbag and accessories store based out of Montreal has also benefitted from the use of social media marketing. Founder Ania Kuskowski says #goals speaks to today’s millennial culture, particularly young people with professional aspirations. “There is sort of idealization,” she says. “If you follow Forbes or Entrepreneur magazine, it’s all about how to do things on your own terms.”

Promotion also plays a role in how hashtags shape culture.

Celebrities can easily promote a product and use hashtags to gain attention without any actual truth or research involved. Searl says it’s currently about relating to a particular demographic – specifically, young adults.

For example, model Amber Rose and reality star Kim Kardashian are often attached to #bodygoals, yet many girls don’t have or want the same body type or shape as these women.

Waist trainers, body wraps and cleansing teas are just some of the products that women see advertised to them to achieve these potential #bodygoals.

Currently, there is no legislation to protect against false advertisement on social media and Searl says it will be interesting to see what the future looks like. “Social media marketing is fairly new,” she says and a lot of companies may not use these hashtags in the most responsible way.

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