Hashtags: Time to clean up the cyber-litter?

Has the hashtag become a victim of its own success? Has over- and wrong-use resulted in a deluge of mindless hashtags cluttering up cyberspace? This article by New York Magazine believes that the hashtag is still a great tool when used properly but that many Tweeters fail to grasp its proper function and abuse it.

It identifies 7 types of hashtag abuser, summarized as follows:

  1. The Hashtag Stuffer festoons each post with several different tags e.g. when posting a photo of July 4 fireworks one Tweeter wrote: #firework #fireworks #july4th #July4 #pretty #boom! #red #white #blue #1776bitches! This is apparently the most common form of Twitter abuse.
  2. The Verbal Hashtagger actually says the word in conversation. I think this is possibly the most annoying use of the hashtag.
  3. The #TheHashtagStringer hashtags a whole sentence of words e.g. #Abunchofwordslikethis
  4. The Gratuitous Event Hashtagger is guilty of hashtagging each event or place they attend, not just once but multiple times.
  5. The Hack-taggegratuitously misuses hashtags created by companies for their Twitter marketing campaigns. The article use the example of Macdonald’s disastrous #McDStories where it asked customers to tweet “heartwarming” stories about their golden arches experience. Hack-taggers quickly latched on e.g.  “Ate a McFish and vomited 1 hour later …. #McDstories.”
  6. The Hash-swagger or the Humblebrag-tag where too cool for school groups use  event hashtags to brag about being at high-class, uber cool or prestigious events.
  7. The Hashtag as Crutch uses tags constantly, across multiple platforms, in a bid to be witty or clarify the tone of a post.

I have to admit I don’t think I use the hashtag to best effect and have been know to stray into category one and three from time to time!

My questions to the class are:

  1. Are you a hashtag users and do you fall into any of the categories above?
  2. Are hashtags overused?
  3. How can people and companies use hashtags more effectively and prevent marketing disasters like #McDStories?

One thought on “Hashtags: Time to clean up the cyber-litter?

  1. I am interested to find out what this author thinks are the #sevenbestwaystouseahashtag.

    While I enjoy using the occasional ironic hashtag, I do agree they have gotten out of control. I do not use Twitter, but I use Instagram and some of the photos posted have an incredible number of hashtags associated with it. I honestly had no idea why people did this, so I consulted a social media guru: my 18 year old sister. She informed me that the more hashtags you have, the more likely people will find your photo and like it. I didn’t fully understand this because my photos are not public. It seems to be a millennial thing to get the maximum number of strangers to like your pictures as an ego boost of some sort.

    As an event planner, I appreciate the use of a hashtag as a method to identify all the social media identified with your event. However, this can go very badly (see McDonalds example).

    To be sure, hashtags are here to stay. The challenge is going to be finding new and interesting ways to utilize them.


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