Are Hashtags Actually a Useful Social Media Engagement Tool?

Comments: 3

  • I don’t really agree with this article. Hahstags are useful! Many times you can find information you need faster thanks to them. About that little girl called Hashtag, parents wanted to impress, that’s all… For those who use Twitter a lot, hashtags are important in my opinion.

  • Alicia Chittum says:

    Dear Mr. Murphy,

    As a current student at the University of Southern California who hopes to soon begin a career in marketing, I am very fascinated with learning all that I can about the current trends and strategies that work within in the industry. Your repost was interesting, current and controversial, leading readers to look critically at the points made about how useful hashtags are today. The use of the McDonald’s #McDStories hashtag example to demonstrate how marketers can create a hashtag, but “can’t control what people [or audiences] use it for” was enlightening, showing the large power followers posses with responding and engaging to twitter posts. With this understanding of the problems that can come from using hashtags, you express concern that “hashtags account for a significant portion of social media engagement, but they don’t seem to drive it.” Recently though, the infographic embedded in this article shows the positive, compelling influence of hashtags as it illustrates that there is a 21% higher engagement rate when tweets include up to two hashtags clarifying that a concise use of these terms actually drive communication with target audiences.

    What’s more, deeper in the post your argument that hashtags “have not become a measurably useful social media engagement tool” comes to light. Although this is an interesting proclamation, I feel like there is a lack of concrete support to help understand this viewpoint. Conversely to your statement, bloggers today, such as Allen Harkleroad of Designer Today, express how they do see a “strong correlation between an increase of website visitors and [the] increased use of hashtags.” Supplementary, the website Hashtags just put out an article that includes Twitter’s recent study that there is a positive correlation between promoted tweets and actual sales. Furthermore, “the results show that a more structured Twitter presence will, indeed, lead to higher earnings for your business.” Do you feel that your argument of the irrelevance of hashtags applies more to the general public who use it frivolously, being that hashtags tend to be more successful engagement tools for larger businesses and celebrities? On another note, Chris Messina, the inventor of Twitter hashtags, has said that he thinks “that there should be different types of metadata markers, for instance /via, /cc and /by” to accompany the growth of the hashtag, to promote further engagement and create clearer distinctions of topics. Do you agree then that the hashtag is simply an evolving social media tool that promotes engagement and will continue to be in our marketing lexicon? Thank you for your thoughtful post and for engaging with me in this topic.


    Alicia Chittum

  • Hi Alicia,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond in such detail.

    The point, I think, is that hashtags are very much a developing social media tool. But at the moment, they may be more useful to the casual user and celebrity than they are to marketers.

    The research you mentioned is certainly interesting, however, it is difficult to accurately measure the success of hashtags, because it’s difficult to create unbiased research on the subject. That research proves only that those tweets saw an increase in engagement, there are too many variables to prove that the hashtags are the only factor. You will find research that claims adding questions marks, exclamation marks or numbers will increase engagement.

    What these studies fail to explain is why these factors drive engagement. Without that information, it’s impossible to confirm the findings. They provide only indicators.

    The fact is, engaging content drives engagement. The functionality of hashtags adds little to an engaging tweet. If hashtags are increasing engagement, it is likely a credibility and perception effect, rather than any other significant effect.

    We have a blog on our website on the use of these kinds of studies.

    I would be happy to hear your thoughts on it.

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