The idea behind the #hashtag was brilliant. I still love the idea – I just hate the application. Yes, I do occasionally use the dreaded hashtag but I keep my usage to a minimum – and only on appropriate platforms! There are plenty of good reasons to use them and for those, I actually encourage it. But for all others I want to scream at my computer. So here I list out when you should, and should NOT, use hashtags.
First though, we need to understand different platforms and which ones are conducive to hashtags. The # is meant to be a categorizing tool which will improve searches for the specific term associated with the tag. Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Instagram are the platforms most commonly utilizing the #. Pinterest has developed some definitive use for the tool as well. Facebook and YouTube are not a platforms that utilize the tool well. Neither is LinkedIn. This isn’t to say people don’t use hashtags on all these sites though.
When Hashtags are Good
1. Twitter Chat. If you are hosting or participating in a Twitter Chat, you need to use the hashtag to signal your involvement in the conversation.
2. Hosting an Event. When you are using Twitter to advertise an upcoming event and need to draw up conversation and awareness for the event, the hashtag becomes the linking tool to connect people.
3. Contributing to a company’s conversation. When a company or brand promotes a # online or on tv and you want to contribute to the conversation, using the hashtag makes your comment easily visible to the company.
4. Participating in a trending topic. One of my favorites is #FirstWorldProblems. Seeing how we make fun of ourselves for our simple problems is extremely entertaining. Adding this tag to a simple problem you encounter makes it fun and sharable.
5. Signalling an emotion. This becomes borderline, but when used in moderation, it is ok… Are you #happy or #frustrated? A simple one word hashtag can simplify your text, taking it from a sentence to a single word.
When Hashtags are Bad
1. Over-classification. How many times have we #read a #post with #hashtags in every #sentence in #order to get #multiple #search #results? Annoying, right? Pick one or two (at most!) dominant categories to assign to a post or image. The rest of the text is still searchable content and will still be found.
2. Multi-platform sharing. How many times does someone list multiple hashtags on their Instagram photo and then share it to Facebook? Facebook and its readers do not care about the multiple tags and they make the post look ugly and cluttered.
3. Irrelevant tagging. When a hashtag is added to the end of a message that has no connection with the post. For example, someone shares a picture of the day’s sunset and tags it with #SMM (social media marketing).
4. Improper use of a trending tag. Taking a trending topic and including it in a self-promotional post, just to get people to see the post, is not only inappropriate, but completely negates the value of the post and the person/company making the post.
When it comes to hashtags, just keep it simple. When in doubt, don’t use them! Keep your content genuine and it will work for itself.
Do you know someone who needs a hashtag intervention? I’m sure you do!! Share this article with them and let’s help rid the internet of the much dreaded overuse of hashtags.