Trends with benefits

Trash the Hashtag?

June 17, 2015 - Social Media - , , , , , , , , ,

Just as you finally figured out how to optimize use of hashtags, they’re now fading fast because they could actually be harmful to the vitality and virality your posts.

Deputy producer of engagement for Al-Jazeera’s AJ+ Shadi Rahimi claims that people, especially media, are now being more much elective about when – or if — they use hashtags.

Twitter originally introduced the hashtag to create a link to group conversations about the topic ‘hashed.’ Instagram, Vine, Google+ and Facebook followed suit and the hashtag transformed itself into a shortcut to specific conversation streams, so the connected could follow what was trending on the hashtagged topics.  Most of us believed that including a hashtag would increase engagement. Now we’re learning otherwise. A new study has shown that in Twitter’s search, a word without a hashtag appears as readily in search results as a tagged term. For example: tweets about “chocolate” will be populated in search whether you post “I am eating chocolate” or “I am eating #chocolate”.

Journalists are discovering that using hashtags that are already established by Twitter users can conflict with their goal of covering stories objectively.  Rahimi cites a great example: coverage of the recent incidents in Boston can be found through #BaltimoreUprising and #BaltimoreRiots — both trending hashtags and both with very different implications about the events. Rahimi’s team used both hashtags, depending on which was trending higher, which diminished the consistency of the journalists’ tones. Rather than reporting on the facts, their use of trending hashtags associated with differing opinions.

At O’Donnell Agency, we’re happy to see personal hashtag use on the decline as well. We’ve all got that one person on our timeline who likes to tell whole stories in hashtaggia, which makes us gaggia. Annoying? Yes. Engaging? Not so much.

But is the hashtag dead? Not just yet. It still works as a tool used to stream live events, conferences or specific topics, but we’re advocating a new outlook: please be selective and strategic about how you use them. Or, your social content will end up simply… hashed.

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