Hashtags have now become a part of our modern language #JustSaying.
They seem to have seeped into every part of our lives; every marketing campaign has to have one (does anybody track them or engage with the users afterwards?).
Above is a napkin from the sandwich company “Eat” in London. I’m unsure why somebody would want to tweet a photo of a napkin, but looking on Twitter, whilst the hashtag certainly hasn’t gone “viral”, people are using it. If you are reading this, you can find me – I just tweeted this photo with the hashtag #setforsummer. Drop by and say hello.
So, where did hashtags come from?
When twitter first started, the only way you could search for anything, was using a hashtag. If you wanted a recipe, then you searched #Food or #Recipe.
Things have moved on and now you can search for anything, but the hashtag has entered the public imagination and most dictionaries. For brands to “trend”on Twitter this is a brand high and the fact you might not make any money does not seem to matter. I guess the board can smugly smile that they are “down with the kids”. Rad, man!
Here at DLA, we often get asked to help a conference and its social media. Sometimes to run it, other times to back fill and supplement the existing social media teams, to give things that extra “umph”.
At one conference, we got them to “trend”, which wasn’t easy as we were up against #nationalteaday and #queensbirthday but I still recall the event organiser pitching to VCs to try and get a worldwide syndication of the event because it had “trended”.
I think that’s why hashtags became popular – it means you “understand” social media. You are part of “the new”; you talk the lingo. A bit like being on snapchat…it’s not about age, we are all millennials, right?
The problem with hashtags
Modern thinking hasn’t caught up with the hashtag, in fact they make tweets difficult to read. Somebody recently tweeted, for example:
How #Sales and #Marketing can make a #Contribution to #RevenueGeneration
The writer seemed to want to scatter hashtags where they are not needed.
For example, this to twitter makes just as much sense and can be searched just the same as the above:
How Sales and Marketing can make a Contribution to #RevenueGeneration
See how much easier it is on the eye – the eye of your customer?
Of course, by littering tweets with hashtags we can show people how clever we are. We know our #socialmedia stuff. By the way, I can assure you, your customers really do not give a stuff.
The hashtag platform problem
You know that person, the one that discovers social media automation and starts spraying all platforms with the same messages. You were my friend and I loved the different, interesting content you once posted. Now you have become noise like everybody else.
How can I tell you are spraying this across all platforms? It is very obvious that you are posting “tweets” on Facebook and LinkedIn. This is when your posts become unreadable.
Hashtags are for Twitter and Instagram (Insta). In fact Insta is totally driven by hashtags. But Facebook (FB) and LinkedIn (LI) need to be hashtag free. I know both platforms have tried to introduce them, but people #votewiththeirfeet and realise that they just don’t suit LI and FB. Plus they don’t really add anything as the platforms don’t really support searching by hashtag. They do, but it’s pretty rudimental.
I read an article today “How to use hashtags on LinkedIn”, it was a spammer rule book – not nice. Seeing a hashtag on LI is a bit like listening to nails being pulled down a blackboard.
You may know that I’m a big Twitter fan, and with that comes the joy of hashtags.
It is great how you can group and search tweets and in effect “move them around” the social network, getting your articles in front of people and communities you might not normally reach.
I’m not talking about being spammy here. My advice is to be careful. If you start filling people’s newsfeeds with irrelevant content then you will get unfollowed (if they have followed you in the first place) or even reported. Most people don’t seem to feel guilt for unfollowing or reporting spammers today like they did maybe five years ago.
There is still an art to crafting a tweet, getting a catchy headline and adding enough hashtags so that you are found (and sharable), but also making the post readable.
So go forth and use hashtags – use them sparingly on Twitter, use as many as you can on Insta, but don’t forget while getting your content read and shared is important, it does need to be readable to your customer and – like useless jargon -hashtags can confuse.