#Hashtags #goneWild!

You know hashtag-mania has gotten out of hand when an organization hashtags everything in their message. But when they do it on a printed poster, the hashtags have gone completely wild!

Printed poster with many hashtags
Printed poster

Let me say first that I’ve never attended this church and I am not affiliated with it in any way, so this is not a criticism of the church. It’s just a random poster I saw at the local mall that is exemplary of hashtags gone wild and I’m only criticizing the way they were used.

There are two reasons for using hashtags in a promotional message:

  1. To help a tweet appear in a Twitter search on the tagged topic
  2. To uniquely identify a tweet as relating to the specific organization (or campaign, event, etc.)

How well do the hashtags in this photo achieve those objectives? Let’s forget the fact that they’re on a printed poster to start out and consider it as if it were an online tweet.

Do a search in Twitter for #riskitandcome (the last hashtag in the photo) and you get “No results.” If the organization is not using the hashtag in their own tweets, what’s the point of publicizing the hashtag? Furthermore, it’s doubtful that a Twitter user is using #riskitandcome in any search anyway. On the other hand, it’s very likely there are many users searching for #god on Twitter. But when you search Twitter for #god, you’ll find that it results in millions of tweets and it would be a miracle to find one by this particular organization in the proverbial haystack of tweets. So neither of those hashtags help the organization accomplish the first purpose for a hashtag. The only hashtag in this photo that might be good for appearing in a search is #tustinchurch (Tustin being the name of the city the church is in).

The most effective way to uniquely identify a tweet as relating to the specific organization is to use its username. This organization failed to do it in the first hashtag in the photo. They should have printed their username, @ConvergenceOC, rather than using a hashtag. If you search Twitter for @ConvergenceOC, it displays all tweets by or about the organization. However, a hashtag could be a good way to uniquely identify a specific event. The organization should first search Twitter for a prospective hashtag to see how many tweets it appears in. Then they should choose a hashtag that is tweeted infrequently and is easy to remember, such as #theaterChurch, to uniquely identify an event.

Finally, let’s consider using hashtags in a printed medium. This photo was taken outside at a mall, so they should use a hashtag that is easy to remember because the person seeing the poster might not search Twitter for the hashtag until they get home. They should also minimize the number of hashtags in the poster to make the most important hashtag stand out. People will not want to search a dozen different hashtags on their cell phone while standing in front of the poster. For this poster, the only Twitter-related content it should have is the username @ConvergenceOC and just one hashtag like #tustinChurch or #theaterChurch.

Facebook now also supports hashtags. But the same principles apply as do for Twitter. Use hashtags that are meaningful and will help accomplish one of the two reasons for using them. Be especially judicious about which hashtag to use in print. Don’t let your hashtags go wild!

Unfollow

I unfollowed quite a few profiles in Twitter today. I know a few profiles that consistently make tweets I consider interesting or entertaining but my tweet stream has been full of tweets I don’t care about lately. I took a closer look at some of the profiles I followed and found that most of their tweets didn’t get my attention. Those are the profiles I unfollowed.

Now I’m left following only 116 profiles and my tweet stream is much more interesting. Sometimes less actually is more. What really surprises me are the users that follow thousands of profiles. That means any individual profile that tweets content of interest to one of those users will almost never be seen in their tweet stream because their tweets will get drowned out by the thousands of other profiles tweeting. Overall, the tweet stream of a user who follows thousands of profiles could not possibly have much interest to the user.

To overcome this effect, some Twitter profiles tweet every few minutes. Many times, they simply tweet the same exact tweet over and over again. This does not help matters. The more prolific the tweets, the lower the quality of the tweets by that profile because they’re grasping at straws to continually come up with interesting content. And repetitive tweets might be more likely to be seen by followers but they’ll just dominate the tweet stream of all the followers who find it uninteresting, drowning out the tweets the follower would find interesting.

I recommend everyone cull the profiles they follow. The only reason to follow a profile is so it will show up in the tweet stream but there’s no point in viewing the tweet stream if it’s not interesting or entertaining. After unfollowing the profiles, their tweet stream will be much more interesting. And with fewer tweets in their followers’ stream, users can stop repeatedly tweeting the same tweet every few minutes just to try to be seen.