Okay, I’ve held my tongue long enough about people on social media inventing long hashtags.
I’ve had it up to here and through the roof with the idiotic long hashtags that people are posting with such regularity these days. Clearly, almost no one knows how to use them. And those who know better, but invent crazy long hashtags in order to try to be funny, well, invariably they just make themselves look dumb.
Long hashtags are not working. They’re seldom funny, they’re rarely effective, and by now they’re almost always annoying.
Hashtags Weren’t Meant to Be Decoration
OK, let’s go back to the basics on hashtags. First, a definition. As Sprout Social explains,
Hashtags are a way for social media users to tag their posts with keywords, which in turn make them easier for social networks to organize and users to search — we all know that.
A hashtag is an add-on to a social media post. But just because it’s an addendum, doesn’t mean a hashtag has to come after a post. For example, you could write:
Or less elegantly, but with the same result:
Her team won the Virginia women’s basketball championship. #Virginia #womensbasketball
Hashtags actually have a function, and they’re most effective to extend your social media presence when you use them for their original purpose — to reach people who follow a topic for which there’s already an existing hashtag in use.
Sprout Social provides a few guidelines to use hashtags well:
- Don’t string too many words together with a single hashtag.
- If you tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your tweet.
- Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single tweet.
- Use hashtags only on tweets relevant to the topic.
New but Not Improved
Believe it or not, hashtags didn’t start on Twitter, but on a service called Internet Relay Chat in the 1990s. However, hashtags got widespread attention only when they popped up on Twitter, which happened in August 2007 when designer Chris Messina suggested using the pound sign to group posts on Twitter.
Here’s that historic Tweet:
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— ❄︎ Chris Messina ❄︎ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
In the last few years, hashtags have migrated from Twitter to nearly every other major social media service — Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest. By now, it seems like everyone is adding hashtags to nearly everything they’re saying to be funny or to add extra emphasis.
And more than just jumping on to existing hashtags, people are inventing hashtags of their own at a crazy rate. This can be effective, if you follow the rule set out by Mashable’s Beginner’s Guide to The Hashtag:
If you want to create a special hashtag for an event or campaign, select one that hasn’t been used before and remind everyone to use it in related tweets. Be sure to include the hashtag in any promotional materials. Make it informative but short — for example, Mashable uses #MashReads to talk about writers who visit our HQ.
But too many invented hashtags, especially long ones, break the rules without enhancing communication online. That would be fine if people were actually making long hashtags that made anyone laugh (rare, but it happens). Or, if adding hashtags actually made people think and encouraged them to get more engaged with the post and the issue hashtagged (again rare, but it does happen sometimes).
But if after every post there’s something like #CorgisInLeopardPrintCollarsInFourFootSnowBanks or #SecretarialDutiesOnThirdMondays or #AndThatsWhyThisDaySucks, then the writer is basically sounding like a idiot who invents a hashtag for anything without thought, strategy, or purpose. It just becomes glut in an already information saturated society for no good reason.
Dare to Say No to Long Hashtags
Now sure, if you’re actually capable of busting our guts with a truly clever hashtag, then by all means, Mark Twain or Tina Fey away!
Or if your analysis or contribution to a prior post is seriously enhanced by adding a cogent and effective summarizing hashtag, go for it.
But based on my reading of far too much of this detritus, very few are actually accomplishing this. Instead everyone seems to have a need for #MyPersonalThreeToTenWordHashtagDescribingMyScenarioInMindNumbingWastesOfInk that #ImInTooMUchOfANarcissticSelfReflectiveHallOfMirrorsToRealizeIsNotFunnyButIsJustAnnoying. So why not just confine yourself to what you have to say and leave it at that?
But hey, if you’re an activist for #health or the #environment or a great sharer of #recipes and #design or #architecture or you love #TV or are tracking a breed of dog or commenting on a proposed bit of legislation, by all means add your targeted and effective hashtag to magnify its impact. Seriously, that’s what it’s for!
But please, if you’re not funny, not adding meaningful analysis and are just knee-jerk hashtagging out of ignorance and too much time on your hands, please, please give it a rest. Please.
And if you’re tempted to hashtag ten items for one post, please, check yourself before you wreck yourself. Develop the discipline to confine yourself to the two hashtags that really will add value and magnification to your post.
Now all you hashtag junkies out there can hate on me all you want, but I am not budging on this. However, I grant you the right to actually make me laugh or think with your long hashtags.
And boy do I wish I could tag some people with this.
— Lindsay Curren, Curren Media Group