Twitter launched this infographic on August 21, 2013.

Mashable and other sites spread it the following day. Companies such as J Campbell Social Marketing continue to spread it.

It’s everywhere.

And, it’s a failure.

Who spends so much time creating a hashtag? Do corporate boardroom sessions dedicate time to review these flowchart actions?

Let me simplify this monstrosity of a flowchart:

  1. Create your own hashtag if it doesn’t exist and if it is unique both for people to remember and for people to use to amplify your reach.
  2. Do not create your own hashtag if one already exists and if your participation will benefit you and others using it.

If you are creating a new product then create a hashtag for it.

But if your product is linked to an existing product, then join that hashtag.

For instance, click through hashtags for the Subaru #Impreza, the Apple #iPad, the #Lenovo computer brand, the Boston #RedSox baseball team, and the clothing company #Levis.

Note that company accounts are not the only tweets there. Anyone who has something to tweet about the Red Sox or Lenovo is adding #RedSox or #Lenovo, respectively, to tweets.

I’ve been back in Boston for 24 hours and I haven’t gone to a Red Sox game this is a problem #RedSox #needtogo

— Julia C (@juliaxo27) September 3, 2013

This is cool! #Lenovo CEO gifts $3 million from his own bonus to junior employees, again via @verge

— TonyVerJr (@TonyVerJr) September 3, 2013

It is imperative that you know your audience before creating a hashtag.

If they are tweeting and they know you or your product, promote a hashtag that they’re already using. Be obvious about it.

From Twitter’s cheat sheet for hashtags:

Take the American version of X-Factor as an example. The producers wanted to differentiate their show from the original British version. They settled on #XFUSA — it was short and unique, different from the British version — perfect, right? A funny thing happened though. Fans were using the non-promoted #xfactor five times more than #xfusa.

Twitter created this chart about the xfactor hashtag.

Quite a difference, huh? So the producers listened to their fans and changed it up. The show started promoting #xfactor in the second episode, and saw an immediate increase in the Twitter conversation. Sometimes if you let your fans determine your hashtag, you’ll end up with even higher levels of engagement. And they’ll love you forever.

No agency-produced flowchart about creating a hashtag can substitute for the real thing. Put yourself or your brand in the place of X-Factor.

If people are talking about you, promote your hashtag with whatever they’re using. If nobody’s talking about you, then either create one — or don’t. Maybe there’s a reason they’re not talking about you — which signifies a bigger problem.