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Oct 5, 2013

6 Ways Hashtags Are Being Used Incorrectly

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6 Ways Hashtags Are Being Used Incorrectly
If you've seen Justin Timberlake's clip on the misuse (and flat-out abuse) of hashtags, you're probably up on #trends.

Hashtags were made (in)famous by Twitter. Before this social media platform, these symbols were largely used for "speaking to an operator." Initially, they were intended to signify the overall content of a tweet. After all, when you have only 140 characters to say something, it pays to sum it up with a simple hashtag.

Then Facebook users started dabbling in hashtags, often showing no clue about the Twitter origin or how they should be used. Back in the good ol' days, hashtags came with one word used to underline the specific sentiment or theme of a tweet, such as #facepalm. They were never meant to be 140 characters themselves or to acquire some weird blend of text and tweet.

Here are six ways hashtags are currently not being used correctly.


1. They're inserted every time

Hashtags are kind of like exclamation marks in a novel: you don't want to use them all the time because that gets annoying and they just doesn't work that way. What would you think if you read an article or novel that had exclamation points peppered throughout every paragraph?

It loses the punch, and it looks unprofessional. Sometimes unprofessional is okay, especially on social media, but that's probably not the image you want to portray all the time.

2. Nonsensical hashtags

There are some hashtags that shouldn't be employed at all, including nonsense words like #woot. Hashtagging woot isn't going to do anything at all; it's not going to garner more followers or re-tweets and it does nothing more than if you had simply written "woot!" by itself.

Hashtags should be used with care, because they're keywords. Think #AIDS, #Madonna, or #Paleo, which are words people will be searching for.

3. Hashtag overload

A post shouldn't have numerous hashtags, because chances are they're not necessary. You'll see some posts that are more hashtags than not, and that's not okay; plus, it all kind of blends together.

A post should have no more than a single hashtag. This isn't SEO tagging, so you don't need to include every possible match.

4. Hashtag hijacking

This is a not-so-sneaky move to "hijack" a post by hashtagging something that has absolutely no connection to the original post (OP). It's mostly used in seriously popular posts, and it's rude at best. Honestly, this is a passive-aggressive way of taking over an online conversation.

5. Hashtagging a novel

There's no actual character limit for hashtags, but when you're hashtagging what could be an entire sentence, you're overdoing it. Keep it short, simple, and sweet - that's what hashtags are all about. #Theresnoneedtohashtagsomethingthatcouldhaveaperiod.

6. Hashtag in-speak

Have you ever heard people say something like, "I had such a crazy Saturday night! Hashtag epic!"? If so, you're witnessing the full cycle of the hashtag, because some people are now using it in actual conversation. That's like actually saying "question mark" instead of simply asking a question the old fashioned way.

If it's not broke, don't fix it, and that includes social media trends.

Abuse of hashtags is becoming more and more common, and it's certainly not helping the whole text-speak generation. Just say no to hashtag abuse, and keep them within their limits - which is social media, short and complementary.

Anything else is annoying, sometimes rude, and makes pretty much anyone who does it look unprofessional and even immature. That's the last thing you want people to think about you, so stick to what works and keep your hashtag best practices up to snuff, just like Justin did.

About author:
Article contributed by Larry Alton, He is an online marketing consultant. Follow him on Twitter.

image by: flickr.com

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