Let’s talk hashtags.
I’d like to start by saying that I appreciate the use of a hashtag for informational and organizational purposes; I actually think it’s a revolutionary concept. But you know those people who use 20 hashtags in one Instagram post but have their accounts set to private? That is not cool.
So how did hashtags get started? More importantly, how did they become so annoying so quickly, and what can you do to stop this abuse?
Chris Messina (@chrismessina) tweeted using a hashtag for the first time back in 2007 as a way to organize thoughts into categories. Who knew it would be the next trend for making online searches easier? Since then, we’ve seen hashtags used for events, TV show chatter, tagging your Twitter-less friends, and more.
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?— Chris Messina™ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
The hashtag trend has spread across other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn (though LinkedIn took the feature away last year), and it serves as a great tool for social media marketers.
As with any new social tool, with the rise of the hashtag comes abuse from marketers and people who degrade the symbol’s purpose. Although studies show that tweets with one or two hashtags see twice the engagement compared to those without, that doesn’t mean you should clog your tweets and Facebook statuses with 20 hashtags. In fact, that same study showed that tweets with three or more hashtags resulted in a 17 percent drop in engagement.
So why are we still seeing brands abuse the hashtag?
Because hashtags help facilitate online searches, brands abide by the notion that more is better when it comes to getting traffic to their site. But as we’ve seen with Google’s past updates on keyword stuffing and guest posting, more is certainly not always better.
The only thing your customers are thinking when they see a timeline stuffed with hashtags is that your brand looks spammy — and no one wants to work with a spammy business.
Whether you’re intentionally trying to get followers or just aren’t aware of the statistics behind hashtag engagement, stop overusing them now before you do any more damage to your brand’s image.
For companies that need to clean up their hashtag use, here are three questions to ask when posting on social media:
1. Will followers actually search using this hashtag?
Going along with the idea of keyword research, hashtag research is just as valuable. The whole purpose of the symbol is to get users to find you or get more information on a topic. Therefore, researching which hashtags customers are using when talking about a certain topic will get more value from your hashtags.
2. Do my tweets exceed two hashtags?
As we saw earlier, having three or more hashtags in a tweet causes a significant drop in engagement. Keeping hashtags to a minimum will make your brand’s social media timeline look less spammy and open up more opportunities for retweets and engaging conversations.
3. Are my hashtags relevant?
Throwing in “#socialmedia” wouldn’t make sense in a tweet that’s talking about sales and the ROI of thought leadership. Though you might want to try to get maximum exposure for your tweets, you can’t let that get in the way of relevance.
Not only will your engagement decrease, but your customers will also be turned off when they see what you’re trying to do. Don’t try to cheat the system. Tweet this
The hashtag is a tool that was created to fuel engagement and help with online searches, but with that power comes great responsibility. Brands that abuse hashtags are hurting their image and driving customers away. But by using this feature appropriately, you can get maximum exposure for your brand’s message and deliver your content to its intended audience.
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Post by Maya Szydlowski