I have a lengthy list of social media pet peeves. Contributing to this myriad of teeth-grinding follies are bathroom selfies, vaguebooking, graphic photos of injuries, and ALL CAPS. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Floating at the top of my list are #peoplewhohavenoideahowandwhattohashtag. At least 50 times a day, my eyes fall victim to hashtags that extend beyond their actual purpose and make a mockery out of Chris Messina’s genius idea.
In 2007, hashtags made an appearance on Twitter. The sole purpose was to give people a means to organize Twitter conversations. Other uses included identifying and categorizing events, breaking news, and other trending happenings. By adding a pound sign, preceding a word or phrase, it brought it to life. You were now able to click on or search a specific hashtag and be directed to real time tweets with that same hashtag.
In the marketing corner, hashtags became an excellent way to organize your content and keep track of discussions based on the keywords used. Companies have relied on hashtags to promote various products and campaigns and to promote big time events. Some have even created their own unique hashtags to generate conversations and buzz surrounding their brand. Across the board, hashtags have provided an endless stream of resources for companies to communicate, collect real time data and enhance marketing.
Eventually, other social media platforms jumped on the hashtag wagon including Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest. In 2013, Facebook joined in with hashtag support. Some extended the use of hashtags on this social media platform and utilized this feature as it was intended for. Others, not so much. The value of hashtags became diluted with nonsensical phrases, senseless words and full sentences. A single update or photo was now saturated with dozens of hashtags. Ironically, an enormous handful of habitual hashtag enthusiasts have no concept of the purpose behind it.
As a social media guru, this became increasingly frustrating. Clients wanted to squeeze in as many hashtags as possible. Their way of thinking was “more will get you more.” With Twitter only allowing 140 characters, it was challenging. Relevant content was shortened. Hashtags took over. On top of that, people were creating dozens of variations for a single trending topic. It quickly became a game of hide and seek. What people didn’t realize was less is more. Not every tweet or post required hashtags. And, excessive use could land you in the bucket of being labeled a potential spammer.
For novice hashtaggers, sifting through the millions of hashtags and figuring out the do’s and don’ts can be overwhelming. Thankfully, over the years, people have stepped forth to provide tutorials and a beginner’s guide to the hashtag. And, let’s not forget, hashtag etiquette. To date, there’s no way to control how and when people use hashtags. Sure, you can post a reply expressing your aversion for their hashtag debauchery, but that probably won’t end well.
For me, and the millions of other professionals out there, I’ll continue to embrace the value of hashtags and respect the unwritten rules. I was in my line of work back when they first made an appearance. I prefer the back to basics approach. Keep it simple. Make it count. In the virtual world, hashtags have spread like wildfire spiraling a tad bit out of control. My futile attempts at ignoring hashtag abuse will eventually become effortless. #ihaveyettogetthere