Is it even worth using hashtags on Twitter?

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

hashtag halloween costume for content marketers
My 2015 Halloween costume

I’ve been in client meetings where the use of hashtags is hotly debated:

  • Should we use a branded hashtag? (Christoph: Usually: No!!!)
  • Should we use a generic one? (Christoph: Probably not!)
  • Should we research who else uses it? (Christoph: Yes, but keep in mind that even if nobody uses it today they can start using it anytime.)
  • Is 22 characters too long? (Christoph: Yes!)

Once, I was attending a conference and their hashtag was used by a completely unrelated arts festival in a totally different country at the same time. Talk about luck! Both streams co-existed within one stream for a while. People lived! But it was strange to see marketing tweets mixed with pictures of pictures.

But hashtags are such a hot topic, I once even ordered a hashtag Halloween costume. Maybe hashtags were to 2015 and 2016 what emojis are to 2017? (Still need a Halloween costume idea (for marketers)? Go here for ideas!

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Hashtags do actually help us structure conversations, find people and also be found. And of course, some influencer platforms build top influencer lists around hashtags. When you can get on one that can be very helpful career and business wise.

I follow a few hashtags via Tweetdeck:

hashtags on tweetdeck

That looks very orderly in a picture. Everything is readable. 🙂 But in reality, can people actually follow the conversation? How fast does it move? Well, fast. Here’s a video of the setup and the #socialmedia hashtag:

It’s hard to read much. Forget about clicking on links! 🙁 It moves so fast. It’s hard for regular users (or any human really) to read a hashtag stream.

Related: What’s with all the links on social media?

This first hit me a few years ago when I was helping a non-social media person (a subject matter expert) participate in a Twitter chat. The stream was moving even faster than the video. She said:

“Are you sure people can read that?”


“And can they comprehend it?”

“Well, they catch some tweets.”

And that’s true depending on what tool they use to read and reply. The Twitter app doesn’t update automatically so it’s more manageable, but you miss strings of tweets. I use Tweetdeck because it does the refreshing for me, but you can see how fast it goes.

So, am I saying not to use hashtags? Not at all! But be strategic about it. Use the ones (or ONE!) that makes sense and see if it helps. Too generic ones are oversaturated. Too specific ones might not be found. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

I use hashtags and I monitor certain ones, but I try not to overthink their use. I was at an event once and the organizer said:

“After extensive research we decided on (this really simple) hashtag.”

Ha. Exactly.

But it’s so easy to overthink social media.

Should I post that?

Let me read it 32 more times.

What’s the goal of this one tweet?

Etc., etc.

It seems that overthinking is easier than actually participating. Until we start participating. Then it’s super hard to stop doing that. It’s become a habit.

Why do we overthink things? It likely comes from the Industrial Age where everything had to have a flushed out plan and goals and everything done was proven worth doing first.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate any of the things mentioned in the last paragraph there. But it’s a fine line. And when we aren’t participating in social media we are likely overthinking it or have decided that we don’t want to participate. Both are not the best reasons.

There’s really no reason to overthink things. Yes, it’s good to have a documented strategy, but a strategy without execution is just paper.

The trick with social media is to be ourselves – whomever we are. Just be yourself. Stand by your stories, share them, be proud of them.

There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s just your answer. Your experience. Your story.

Tweet it. Participate. It’s our stories – sometimes they are personal and sometimes they are organizational stories. Either way, we should aim for sharing unique and authentic stories.

We do that by identifying the interesting ones and then actually sharing them.

Easy. Breezy. No need to overthink it. Use hashtags when they make sense. Post what’s worth posting.

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