Before long, “#” will become as recognizable as “@” – but unfortunately, it will probably have significantly less value. Hashtags have become a staple in the Twitter experience and for those that joined in early 2007, you probably know that they appeared out of necessity and with little strategic consideration. The hashtag was created by Twitter users looking for a more effective way to find the information that was valuable to them and to connect around topics. Since then, it has become crucial in sharing of news and mobilizing people.
Unfortunately, many people on Twitter are using hashtags just to use them – with little thought to how it detracts from the conversation or negatively impacts perception of their personal brand (or worse, the company they are representing). Here are six of my pet peeves when it comes to how people use (or in this case, misuse) hashtags on Twitter.
1) The “#” Obsession
“It’s right there on my keyboard and I just can’t restrain myself. Sitting comfortably above the ‘3’, one simple keystroke adds that magical little symbol to my rapidly decreasing 140 characters. You never know when someone will be searching for tweets that mention #me! It’s important that my tweet show up in those searches so people know that I’m here. Who cares if the content of my tweet is totally irrelevant? If I want to tweet, ‘#OMG #todaysucks #theresalwaystomorrow #chinup #buttercup,’ no one’s gonna stop me!”
2) The “I’m Going to Make this # Happen” Phenomenon
“I know more about #peanutbutter than anyone. I love eating #peanutbutter and I am going to use this hashtag in every single tweet moving forward until I am recognized as the foremost expert in #peanutbutter. Unfortunately, I only have so much to say about #peanutbutter. Really, how many different tweets can I talk about that are relevant to #peanutbutter? Who cares, I’ll just add #peanutbutter to all my tweets; even if it doesn’t make any sense.”
3) The “Longest # Ever” Challenge
You know you’ve seen it before.
4) The “I Deserve my Own #” Experiment
“I’m not sure if people can find me and all the wonderful things I have to tweet just by searching for my name. If I had a clever hashtag that was associated to all the goodness that is ‘me’, then it would be so much easier for my followers to help build my personal brand. Moving forward, I’ll include #kgreen in all my tweets. That way, if someone searches for me, they can see all of the tweets I share and all of the amazing tweets people share about me. Or I guess they could just @mention me. Or they could just search for my profile. Wait a minute, what’s the point of this again?”
5) The “Princess Bride” Element
Tweet: “I’m #literally #dying of hunger. I need to think about dinner!”
I’m sure all of the Twitter users out there who are actually talking about death and dying are concerned about your struggles with the dinner menu. Maybe you should put the hashtag in front of dinner instead of dying, mmmmkay?
6) The Hashtag Surfer
“I’m going to insert my unrelated product/service/news into a trending hashtag to get more eyeballs on it (at the irritation of everyone following that hashtag). Or, I’ll use a popular hashtag that I’ve seen show up in my feed before, without looking into the significance or meaning of the hashtag first.” A classic example of this was Entenmann’s recent use of the #notguilty hashtag to talk about eating “tasty treats”… when the #notguilty hashtag was actually being used to discuss the verdict in the Casey Anthony murder trial. #Fail
The truth is, the hashtag has so much potential (and of course the quotes above are fictional). However, because there are no restrictions around its use and little guidance for new users, the poor behavior will continue and may eventually ruin the value all together.
There’s an old rule I learned about commas in 6th grade that has stuck with me forever (even though it’s not always good advice) that applies to the hashtag:
“When in doubt, leave it out.”
What are your hashtag or Twitter pet peeves? Add your thoughts in the comment section below or send me a tweet @kevinmgreen.