Thursday, April 4, 2013

Are Hashtags Useless?

Yes and no, according to this provocative article by Daniel Victor, the social media editor of the New York Times.


If you’re tagging something big like #FreeEnterprise, #SuperBowl, or #MarchMadness, “you’re calculating that there will be a lot of people searching for [this term], but not so many using it that your tweet would be overwhelmed,” says Victor. “It’s a narrow set of circumstances.”

What’s more, even if you don’t tag the given phrase, your tweet can still show up in a search for the given term.

“Does this mean the millions of Twitter users who deploy such hashtags to increase their reach are all wrong? Well…yes,” Victor concludes.


A smarter use of hashtags, Victor advises, pertains to a limited set of circumstances, like a conference or initiative:

“They’re great for gathering small groups of people; at a conference, there’s no better way to connect with other attendees and read brief summaries of sessions. When kept to a small scale, they can ably perform their service as a filter of relevant tweets (#EastVillage is more manageable than #NYC).”

The bottom line: “We need not banish the hashtag, but let’s start putting more thought into when we’re using it.”

If you get a chance, the article is worth reading in full.

Addendum (5/22/2015): The Dirty Secret in Marketing: Most Twitter Hashtags Are Useless

Addendum (5/24/2015): It turns out that back in 2009, HubSpot beat us all to the punch.

Addendum (6/10/2015): Al Jazeera Plus joins the crowd: “We’re Using Hashtags Less Than Ever.”