Hey, Quit Hogging All the Hashtags

Kait Nolan touched on this in her awesome Social Media Ennui. This trend of loading up a tweet with tons of hashtags. I nodded in agreement as I read and possibly clapped at my computer screen.

Later in the week, I saw a tweet go by about someone’s new blog post. I don’t remember what it was about or who tweeted it. All I remembered were the SIX HASHTAGS it had. Maybe a variation on The Rule of Two was at work (or maybe I was already annoyed because yet another new follower thanked me for my follow and promptly asked me to like a Facebook page.) because I blew my stack.

We really need to work together to stop this madness which I think in most cases is confusion. But before I get into what I’m talking about, a quick definition of a hashtag for anyone not in the know.

Twitter has a way to mark your tweets so people outside of your followers can see them. Just slap a pound sign in front of a word or phrase (no spaces) and your tweet will be seen by anyone checking the hashtag. Using popular hashtags can put your tweets in front of many, many eyes. #amwriting is a good example.

Writers use it frequently to tweet their writing progress, goals and/or blog posts. And since it’s a high traffic hashtag, it gets used on almost any tweet related to writing. So, if you’re a writer, it’s a fine place to tell other writers what you’re up to.

#amwriting is one of many go to hashtags that some feel the need to cram in one little tweet. I think this is especially true in the case of giving another blogger a shoutout. The sentiment is in the right place, but once you get into the realm of four, five or SIX hashtags sandwiched in one tweet, all I see is buy, buy, buy.

There might not be anything literally for sale, but to me it’s the same thing and turns me off from clicking further. We all know not to do this for books, why do we forget when it comes to blog posts? Maybe we don’t realize how much a hashtag stands out. I think of them like different colored lights. Very bright lights pointed directly at our eyes and the more there are, the harder it is to see what’s behind them.

According to Kristen Lamb’s Twitter Tuesday #18, she recommends using no more than THREE hashtags per tweet. And if you’re retweeting someone else’s blog, same rules apply, but you need to CHANGE the hashtags.

By working together we can spread a good blog around our networks and through popular hashtags. But if one person uses all the bright lights, there’s nothing left for anyone to use. I, personally, won’t recycle recently used hashtags because it clogs up a stream with the same link. And I don’t want to be responsible for turning off people to a good blog.

With Tweetdeck you can make columns for hashtags like #amwriting. Do you know how annoying it is to see the same tweet go through a stream within minutes or seconds of each other? Now imagine I’m following other popular hashtags. The annoyance is now multiplied. The buy, buy, buy is all around me.

One tweet will never reach everyone and loading it full of hashtags might actually cause LESS people to pay attention to you. Seeing your avatar might be enough for someone to ignore anything you tweet. Nobody wants that.

Have you guys seen The Rise of the Hashtag Blitz? Does it annoy you as much as it does me or do you have a different threshold?

10 comments on “Hey, Quit Hogging All the Hashtags

  1. Wow, Andrew, tell us how you REALLY feel. LOL

    Actually, posts like this are very helpful to people who absolutely have no clue this hashtag thing is a no no. I’ve never used more than one or two hashtags myself, but there are probably lots of people who do it thinking it’s ok. And some people probably don’t realize that when you retweet with the same hashtags, it makes the same tweet come through on that stream multiple times. I think most of this is done just out of ignorance, not out of aggressive marketing. So maybe some people learned something new from your post. πŸ™‚

  2. I have to confess, I have been guilty of RTing without changing hashtags. But that’s because I was new and didn’t know any better. Thanks to Kristen Lamb I found out it was a no, no and have since been very careful to change them. I agree with you, it is sooooo annoying when the same tweet appears over and over in a stream within a short time span. Like you it makes me not want to look at it. The multiple hashtag thing doesn’t bother me so much as long as I can find the *real* text before them.

    Thanks for the reminder. Hopefully some new twitter people will see this and avoid making these mistakes.

  3. I confess. I’m a hashtag ho. I tweet about my blog at about a 1/20 ratio. Most of my tweets are chats with people in my twitter stream that have nothing to do with blogging. So the few times I do tweet my blog, I like it to reach as many readers as possible. For example, if Holmes writes a blog about Josephine Baker being a spy, it is appropriate in history, WWII, dancer, spook, and NATO hashtags, and we have readers from all of those. I would rather put 5 hashtags in one tweet than tweet it five times, which would be really obnoxious of me. But I try to let my tweeps know with my ratios that my first interest is saying hello to them.

    I’m glad to hear your perspective, Andrew. Thank you.

  4. @LL- A simple check of a person’s stream will reveal if they’re a promo machine or tweeting stuff they think their followers will enjoy. I agree with you that in most cases, it’s the latter.

    @Jessica- I made tons of mistakes when I joined social media. It’s a different way of talking to people and there’s no official guide book to help with that. But people are generally forgiving of that stuff when it’s an obvious mistake.

    I hope this is a helpful post. I don’t see overuse of hashtags a lot, but enough that it was on my mind when I sat down to write a post. I’ve never unfollowed, blocked or reported anyone for spam because of it. Just lately, I feel Arg! when one goes by.

    @Piper- You know Piper, I’m really glad for your comment because I’d call you an a exception and proof that for every rule, there’s a different way to approach it.

    When I think about you, the first word that comes is conversational, so if a tweet goes by with more than three hashtags, I don’t even notice. And since you don’t tweet your blog all day, giving it some extra hashtags is a good way to go for you. Would that work as well for someone else? Who knows? There are probably other factors at work like topic, type of hashtags or when the tweet goes out.

    And I wouldn’t consider you a hashtag ho. A ho isn’t nearly as talkative. Always with the gimme, gimme, gimme.

  5. @Piper- I’m thinking there are a few different kinds of hashtags. One is just for effect like #peanutbutterandpicklerelishrules or #drunkoffmyass. Who would follow that? So it’s more like a silly emphasis thing. The two that I see people follow are groups and subjects. I think the groups one is what Andrew’s getting at, groups like #MyWANA, #amwriting, tags that people use as a community within Twitter. But then there are the subject tags that people follow. While a community feel might form around a subject like #WWII, it seems less likely to become a group like some of the writer groups that end up with a lot of conversation that has nothing to do with writing yet includes the tag. It’s probably a fine line and judgement thing, but I look at tagging something with multiple subjects–especially when it actually IS about that subject–differently than how I look at aiming the tweet at every possible group it might suit. Tagging a tweet with subjects also helps people understand what the post is about, while tagging it with #amwriting, #MyWANA, #WANA711, #WANA1011, #amediting, #writechat really doesn’t.

    @Andrew- I think seeing you this pissed off really goes to show the seriousness of this issue.

    • I don’t usually like to show people my angry face, but it had to be done.

    • Great point Susan. Subject hashtags and group hashtags are very different animals. When I see lots of group hashtags with no subject hashtag, it’s not only “buy, buy, buy,” but it tells me that the blog, itself, has no subject, and I rarely check them out. One caveat, though. It can also mean the blogger is new to Twitter and hasn’t read Andrew’s or Kait’s hashtag wisdom. πŸ™‚

  6. Excellent points. I try to change the hashtags whenever I retweet. Sometimes there’s quite a few links I want to retweet that fall in the same category and I hate to flood a hashtag. It does drive me nuts when I see tons of hastags in one tweet or having hashtags flooded with tweets and retweets that aren’t really relevant.

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