While the Washington Huskies were playing football 2,600 miles away against the Louisiana State Tigers in Baton Rouge, Daniel Hour sat in a Seattle coffee shop scrolling through his Twitter feed. As the University of Washington athletics manager of new media and recruiting services, the social media guru was looking for Tweets containing the #UWvsLSU hashtag.
One Tweet caught his eye.
“I saw a random Tweet about Tagboard and had no idea what it was,” Hour said. “It just showed this weird combination of Tweets, Instagram photos and other pictures together.”
That was the birth of a relationship between the UW athletics department and Tagboard, a Redmond-based social media aggregator. Less than a month later, after a few emails and conversations back and forth, the two agreed to a partnership Wednesday.
“We have a lot of respect for the UW and for us to have our first big traction coming in this area was very meaningful for us,” said Josh Decker, CEO of Tagboard.
Tagboard is trying to capitalize on the usage of hashtags in social media. It’s essentially a landing zone for specific hashtags or topics that are alive on social media. Users can find out more information about a certain subject, while companies have the ability to customize the design and imagery of their pages to help frame the conversation and brand.
Posts from Twitter, Facebook, Instragram and App.net are currently aggregated on hashtag-specific Tagboard pages. That brings the conversation out of the silos of each network all into one place.
“The usage of hashtags, in many cases, has created noise and chaos,” Decker said. “What we do is waive a magic magnet across the internet and pull matching hashtags, display them in an interactive way and build more meaning behind the hashtag, rather than just noise.”
Before the partnership, GoHuskies.com featured a box on its homepage with a hashtag and link to Twitter search results. That has already been replaced with a Tagboard-linked box focusing on this Saturday’s game against Oregon.
“It’s just a good way to see everything,” Hour said of Tagboard. “You get a better feel for an event, instead of just words.”
Decker thought of the idea for Tagboard after he spent the last few years managing quattroworld.com, a community of Audi enthusiasts. Now he’s trying to build a community based around hashtags on a whole new scale.
He began to see people attaching hashtags to posts not only on Twitter but with other outlets like Facebook and Instagram. Though they mostly gained popularity on Twitter, Decker noticed a pattern with the now often-used “#.”
“I felt like there was this low-hanging fruit of hashtags that could connect us all together, and I didn’t see anyone else going for it,” he explained.
Users can search for hashtags while watching an event, for example, to find out what people are posting across various networks. They can also set up Tagboard pages centered around a certain topic. Brands, like UW Athletics, will also be able to own premium, fee-based customized pages that can they can control and see analytics.
The company is hoping to grab hold of the hashtag craze and run with it.
“Users are interested in self indexing of the content and using hash tags to do it,” said co-founder Tim Shimotakahara.
Decker founded the company last November along with two others: Shimotakahara, a current board member, and UX designer Sean Sperte. The company has raised nearly $700,000 in angel funds. A big investor was one of Facebook’s first employees and is “well-known,” according to Decker.
This is Decker’s second go-around in the Seattle startup community. His first run began with the now-defunct software startup Zango, which current BigDoor CEO Keith Smith started back in 1999. Decker and his seven-member team, who pride themselves on being a lean startup, hope to make the usage of hashtags and Tagboard synonymous.
“When people think about hashtags, we want them to go to Tagboard and interact with the hashtag content on a bigger picture,” Decker said. “As communities and brands adopt the usage of Tagboard, you are going to see a more purposeful use of hashtags.”