Hashtag Mania

hashtag maniaIn case you missed it, hashtag mania is upon us. This once innocuous symbol for trending topics on Twitter has now exploded into mainstream culture and it seems that there is no escaping it – even if you don’t understand it.

It wasn’t that long ago that hashtags were just innocent little pound signs on a telephone. Then came Twitter and the hashtag became a way of identifying topics of discussion and that quickly evolved into a way to express snarky thoughts. It didn’t take long for those snarky expressions to make their way onto other platforms like Facebook, driving non-tweeters insane.

All of this seemed pretty confusing, especially to Baby Boomers who STILL don’t quite know what to make of the trend. In fact in a recent survey, 25 percent of Boomers believe that hashtags and other social media symbols should be taught in schools.

Social media platforms such as Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Gawker and others all use hashtags, but the trend has spread from the Web to wider world of communications. They are in the bottom corner of your favorite television shows, in commercials, in magazines and newspapers and on billboards. But sometimes, it can go too far. In this campaign from Honda, the hashtags aren’t an actual topic of conversation as much as they are part of the actual conversation.

This is quite possibly one of the most annoying commercials I’ve ever seen and to make matters worse, it’s also on the radio. Yes, that’s right. Hashtags are on the radio, which means that we now have the pleasure of hearing people SAY the phrase “Hashtag:InsertSnarkyCommentHere.” This is more annoying than when people first started saying text lingo like OMG and LOL out loud. Why would you say LOL when you can just laugh out loud?

Not everyone understand hashtags. Most of us have that one uncle who rants on Facebook about it because he still doesn’t get it. Then there is your mom who thinks she understands the hashtag but uses it all wrong. As popular as they are though, some people still just don’t get it and feel that they are just annoying and pointless misuses of the pound sign. The question my own relatives ask is this: “Why would you use a hashtag for sarcasm when you can use real sarcasm?” Simply put, it’s easier. But like anything, trends like this have a tendency to go to far. As Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake demonstrate, hashtags spoken out loud sound just as stupid as text lingo.

So what is the right way to use of hashtags then? It’s simple, really.

  1. Use hashtags to create or contribute to a specific topic of conversation or event.
  2. Use hashtags on appropriate forms of media.
  3. Don’t #overuse #the #hashtag #in #your #message #or #you #will #turn #people #off.
  4. Make sure you know that your hashtag is unique, easy to understand, and not used by another campaign.

Following these simple steps is good hashtag form and will ensure that your hashtag usage never ends up on the #FAIL list.

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