Hashtags — love them or hate them? Are they good or bad for business?
Let’s take a closer look at the world of hashtags…
On the positive side, hashtags open up your social media updates to a whole new world: non-subscribers, non-fans and non-followers. Searching hashtags brings potential fans, followers, subscribers — and customers — to your doorstep. Whenever I use hashtags, I always receive more traffic from those outside of my network. I’ve also come across brands — both personal and corporate — on Instagram and Twitter that I probably never would have found otherwise.
Hashtags are also a wonderful way to have a conversation online. Stay up to date with webinars, events, ad campaigns, sporting events, etc. by searching for the hashtag and participating in the conversation. As a marketer (or event professional), designating hashtags for your campaigns and events is a great way to invite attendees to join the conversation, build momentum pre- and post-event, involve those unable to attend and integrate your online and offline marketing efforts.
The #Olympics hashtag: insight and insanity
For example, Twitter noted that the #SuperBowl hashtag was used 3 million times over an approximate 5-hour time period. As a marketing professional, you’re probably excited to jump in! But slow down — and do the math. That breaks down to an average of 167 tweets per second. And remember, anyone can use a hashtag — not only brands, companies or excited fans talking positively about your product or service. Someone complaining about a sideline reporter’s outfit or a celebrity that’s spotted in the crowd will show up in that hashtag search as well. As Oreo showed us, hashtags don’t make the tweet.
Oreo stole the show on Super Bowl Sunday. No hashtag needed.
Another negative aspect is what I like to call ‘overhashtagging.’ I’m pretty sure that’s not a word, but it is in my dictionary. #Have #you #ever #read #a #tweet #like #this? #Probably #not #because #its #so #annoying. I’ve spoken to Twitter users regarding hashtag use and come across research that noted readership (and engagement) drops after 2 – 3 hashtags. Of course, it’s not just on Twitter; we’ve all seen photos maxing out the 30 hashtag limit on Instagram. As my mom always says, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. #justsaying
In summary, hashtags have good and bad qualities like most things in life. They can be used correctly or abused as some of the pros and cons below show.
- gain new followers, fans, subscribers and possibly customers
- have a conversation online
- bring event attendees into the conversation, including pre- and post-event
- integrate online and offline marketing efforts
- help a campaign go viral
- new followers may be temporary or fake
- aesthetically unpleasing
- overuse is distracting / hard to read
- overuse lowers readership / engagement
- get lost in the sea of popular hashtags
I came across an insightful comment by Daniel Victor, social media staff editor at The New York Times, which sums up my opinion of hashtags well.
“Here’s where I’ll join the rest in unquantifiable hoodoo: I believe hashtags are aesthetically damaging. I believe a tweet free of hashtags is more pleasing to the eye, more easily consumed, and thus more likely to be retweeted (which is a proven way of growing your audience). I believe for every person who stumbles upon your tweet via hashtag, you’re likely turning off many more who are put off by hashtag overuse. We need not banish the hashtag, but let’s start putting more thought into when we’re using it.”
What do you think? Are you a hashtag user or recovering abuser? Refuse to use them?
Have hashtags been beneficial to your business? Or hurt your online brand?
Please chime in with your thoughts on the wonderful, wacky world of hashtags! Feel free to link to articles, blog posts, studies, etc. (including your own) on the subject in the comments as well.
Hashtag (first) photo courtesy of Michael Coghlan via Creative Commons License
p.s. Sunday, June 30th, is Social Media Day 2013! Join CCC as we celebrate (virtually) the power of social media in our lives. View the event invite for details and social media resources.
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