There’s a Time and a Place for Hashtags

 
 

We are in the midst of a ‘hashtag’ invasion. So ubiquitous has the crosshatched symbol become, we’ve started to use it in everyday speech, in popular culture, and across multiple social channels.

For every catty remark we make on and offline with friends (usually about other friends) there’s a ‘#JustSaying” waiting in the wings.  Each moment of bamboozlement that we suffer, leads us to exclaim “#WTF”, and every flash of shock and awe that befalls us, leads us to limply say ‘#OMG’.

The music industry is no stranger to a hashtag anymore either. Will.I.Am and J Biebs brought us #ThatPower, Mariah Carey proclaimed she and soul singer Miguel to be #Beautiful, while Example is currently encouraging us to sample his #Hits.

Hashtags are no longer limited to Twitter either – they have migrated across to Facebook (pictured), photo sharing app Instagram, and corporate channel LinkedIn.

Indeed, hashtags are everywhere, and the reason over and improper use of hashtags gets me so fired-up, is the same reason I work in social media – I love them. In fact, I love hashtags to such an extent that I want to see them treated with a little respect – used with the same level of precision as an item of grammar in a PhD student’s thesis paper.

When creating a post, its tempting to ‘hashtag it up’– the thought being that the more you do so, the more eyeballs will land on it. This isn’t strictly true, as, with the exception of Instagram, excessive hashtags make accounts appear spammy. Excessive hashtags also suggest that the user doesn’t really know what he or she is doing  – hardly a desirable asset when managing a major B2C brand account.

If you’re creating a hashtag for a social campaign, be sure, as with any strategic communications output, that the messaging is clear and not open to alternative reading – no half-decent marketer wants to see a repeat of #Susanalbumparty.

It’s important to integrate hashtags that aren’t part of major campaigns too – ‘We’re pleased to announce the launch of our Summer sale #Summer #Sale #Shopping #Retail’.

Hashtags are important conversation drivers in social. Before you hashtag, ask yourself why you’re doing it – what trend do you want to start, or join? What are you offering them in exchange for using a campaign hashtag?  And for heaven’s sake, don’t speak in hashtags offline. #JustSaying.

Elliot Farr is Social Media Publisher at cubaka. Follow him on Twitter at @TheBoyEL.