The Hashtag – Repping or Ripping Off?

I love Twitter! It gets a reputation for being just one more place for tabloid-like celebrity worship and chatter about superfluous things like Dancing with the Stars and the Real Housewives. And I’ll admit there’s a lot of that going on. I’ve even participated in some of it … Ok. A lot of it.

However, there is also a lot of professional networking and learning happening there. I have connected with truly awesome people that I likely would have never encountered if it wasn’t for Twitter. And I have learned about opportunities, trends and legislation I wouldn’t have learned about as quickly if it wasn’t for Twitter.

However, one area of Twitter that still gives me pause is hashtags. For those who aren’t familiar, the hashtag is the “#” combined with a string of letters or words. It creates a search term that users can click and see what other people are tweeting about the same thing. Sometimes hashtags are used sarcastically. There is no real knowledge to be gained from the hashtag; it is just a way of being silly or sassy.

Other times, hashtags are have meaning and importance. They allow searches on tweets related to a specific event. Following the hashtags lets users see what everyone who is tweeting about the event is sharing.

There are also twitter chats held daily and weekly on various topics. Users can follow those hashtags to see other people’s answers to chat questions and dialogue back and forth.

 

However, if one is not tweeting about an event or participating in a chat or being a sassy-smart-ass, when and why are hashtags appropriate?? This is something I’ve always wondered and worried about — then I stumbled across this article by Dave Ryan at H.R. Official about hashtag hitch-hikers. These are people who basically post something and throw on the hashtag of some event they aren’t attending or chat they don’t actively participate in to drive more traffic to their tweet and whatever product they are pimping. Dave uses the example of a fictional conference using the hashtag #CES and a blogger posts something about their blog then uses #CES in the tweet … Is this acceptable??

Now, I’m from the ‘hood and from Jersey. And where I’m from, it’s not OK to represent something you don’t really belong to or know about. However, it’s just twitter! Hashtags are not gang signs!! It really shouldn’t be that serious … But for some it is. Like the certain someone who sent me a DM telling me not to use a certain hashtag because it was just for certain people.

Yeah. That really happened … and it wasn’t cool [[Shame on you, twitter thug!]]

So after “hovering” on hashtag hitch-hiking, here’s what I decided:

  • Keep it relevant. Use a hashtag only if relevant to what you’re tweeting about. If your blog post is about HR, using a hashtag about the widgets conference held in your city makes no sense … unless your post is about the use of widgets in HR. Otherwise, you are a hitch-hiker.
  • Keep it real. Use a hashtag with sincere intentions. If the hashtag is not sarcastic or sassy, your tweet should add relevant content or commentary to the discussion stream. If it doesn’t, you are a hitch-hiker.
  • Keep it … to a minimum (Sorry. I couldn’t find another R word). Use hashtags sparingly. Overuse of hashtags definitely means you’re hitch-hiking … plus #it #is #really #annoying #because #nooneknowswhatthehellyouresaying!!

So get your tweet on!! Express yourself, your brand, and your product 140-characters at a time without apology or regret. Just be mindful with your hashtags.

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7 Comments

  1. I’ve seen this in some of the twitter chats I’ve been involved with…someone will throw a promo out there and use the # for the chat because it has a built-in audience and they know that hashtag is getting action and searchable. It’s lame. Good to know we got the hashtag cops on the case…book ’em Buzz.

    • Buzz Rooney

      October 13, 2011 at 2:00 PM

      It is very lame. And obvious. And the people those people want to pay attention to it are glossing over it because of it.

      In the end, I believe if you are sincere and consistent, the recognition will come. Hashtag, schmashtag!

  2. Hey Buzz nice piece. I never thought I might get beat up for using an errant hashtag. And I must admit I Hitchhike every now and then – but at least in my mind I have some loose association with the HT.

    • Buzz Rooney

      October 13, 2011 at 11:19 PM

      Me either! It was very early on in my twitter experience and really made me nervous about hashtags. That’s why your article resonated so much. The twitter streets can be mean!

  3. I am in Staffing Solutions and i can tell you that these hashtags can be beneficial if utlized correctly. Here at Helping You Hire, we are sure to tweet about any new positions if a client so chooses. We use thee hash tags to make sure we show up in certain industry and location searches, and it has been a great tool thus far. I feel that this is a great example of how to use a hashtag correctly. 🙂

  4. “plus #it #is #really #annoying #because… #not #everything #needs #to #be #hashtagged”

    …#Mashup!!

    You know, I never even thought about the promotional aspects of things. Either way, hashtag abuse is lame sauce.

    • Buzz Rooney

      June 2, 2012 at 2:54 PM

      It is definitely lame to abuse the hashtag and hijack streams with unrelated content. If we focus on being thoughtful, we can use tags properly.

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