It’s ten years this week since Chris Messina suggested on Twitter that we use the # (pound) to organise conversations. To celebrate we’re sharing stories throughout the week that have used a hashtag to great effect and made a lasting impact on Twitter.
It is hard to think of a campaign that can match #HeForShe for its global impact and ambition. Ignited by a groundbreaking United Nations speech given by Emma Watson in 2014, #HeForShe started a global conversation, and built a social movement to engage men and boys to help change the world and end gender inequality.
From the start #HeForShe has been a campaign that has had Twitter in its DNA. The simple and powerful #HeForShe hashtag is one of the symbols of the movement. It has become as easily recognised and understood as any slogan in history.
Elizabeth Nyamayaro (@e_nyamayaro), the Head @UN_Women and Head of the @HeForShe Initiative, said: ‘There was literally no telling how the world was going to respond to #HeForShe when we launched it. And so to get that amount of excitement it was really humbling for us and also we're just so grateful we took that leap of faith.’
What happened following the launch of #HeForShe surprised everyone. Within three days of Watson’s speech, more than 100,000 men had signed up to show their support for the #HeForShe campaign.
Since then hundreds of thousand more have lent their support. It has recruited celebrities like Tom Hiddleston, Russell Crowe and Harry Styles who have added their social clout. From the world of politics and business, heads of state and CEOs, such as Shinzo Abe of Japan, Stefan Löfven of Sweden, Paul Polman of Unilever and Bob Moritz of Vodafone have added their names among many more. Not only their names but their commitment to advancing gender parity.
Like a few other global campaigns, #HeForShe shows how powerful ideas can spread globally on Twitter and take a meaningful root in society. What has been instrumental in its success is its ability to reach not only a youth market but an older audience as well.
‘The surprising thing about Twitter is its ability to engage not only the young people but also the older generation. And with a campaign like #HeForShe, we are creating a movement, we need to be able to reach all our audiences, and this becomes the perfect tool for us,’ said Nyamayaro.