twitter hashflags part one

what are hashflags

Hashflags are custom emojis that can be used on the official Twitter app and twitter.com. Typing in a specific hashtag causes the emoji to appear directly next to it. Let's tweet #koffeewithkaran and see what happens.
screen shot of twitter.com

That's a nice little coffee cup there. This specific hashflag was added to promote Star World's talk show Koffee with Karan.
Picture from Indian Express

why should i care

Because you love emojis. These are really well designed emojis that are attached to a specific event and hashtag. Hashflags help you connect with other people following the event as well as looking cool. If you use hashtags and emojis, then you should enjoy hashflags.

If you're an advertiser, then you should consider adding hashflags to your current promoted hashtags. At the very least, it lets users know that this is the "real official verified" hashtag. The best practice is to create the hashflag from an already popular hashtag. If you don't, you could end up like Hawkers, who went live with their hashflags before they had even launched the corresponding promotions. This leaves tweeps wondering what "#hawkersxelganso" means until the campaign launches. Or even worse, unintentionally tips off the market.

But everything has a downside. Hashflags are essentially an undocumented feature. They're not part of the API and as far as I can tell there is no official statement from Twitter about them. If you use a third party twitter app, then you're out of luck. If you want to find a concrete list of current active hashflags, fat chance. Your best bet is to check hashfla.gs from Emojipedia's twitter feed, which, with all due respect, is a bit slow to update. Until now! I made some scripts for extracting hashflag data andI'm sharing the bounty with you. Check out @hashflagit for a guaranteed up to date list of hashflags to use.

who's buying these (and why)

Every Twitter hashflag as of 3/27/2017 is in the image above. The PDF file embedded below (also available here if you're on mobile) shows hashflags as of their most recent update.

Clearly, a few customers are buying the majority of these. It also seems obvious that there are many different hashtags associated with the same emoji. This makes a lot of sense if the same product is being marketed internationally. So there's two ways to look at this: number of hashflags or number of unique emojis associated with those hashflags. Here's the breakdown of hashflags by campaign.
pie chart by campaign

Entertainment is the number one buyer. This is definitely bolstered by our friend Karan, but is also a reflection of what Twitter users discuss. Musicians in particular get a lot of mentions. Certain artists (Beyoncé) are like Bloody Mary or Candyman, merely tweeting their name is enough to draw out their legion of stans. This kind of following loves to discover new ways to venerate their idol. I know that when #Stormzy copped several hashflags for his debut album #GSAP, I went crazy and probably tweeted all of them more times than were appropriate, #merky. Most customers end up buying only one or two hashflags, though, and these make up the long tail in the "other" category.

what's next

I've made a JSON file containing current hashflags available here. If you're a developer and want to add hashflag support to your app, this should be enough to get you started. But if it isn't, the very simple script I used to create this file is available here on GitHub.

I'm currently working on a hashflag keyboard extension for Chrome to make inputting these easy on Twitter's web app. I will also analyze the data I've collected in a future post. Here's a sneak peek, just showing the number of different emojis over time:
It's emoji season 😎