Hashtag stuffing is a practice followed by nearly all brands and companies, particularly those that are just starting up and looking to garner more followers and a spotlight in the huge space of the internet. The quickest way to do this is to post content with frequently-searched terms, or use a lot of hashtags, jumping in to an ongoing discussion, so to say. The thinking behind this is that including trending or popular hashtags increases the chances of your tweets being found and noticed.
However, several cases have proven that jumping on to a bandwagon can backfire very badly especially if the context is different. One example is that of the fashion brand Kenneth Cole who used the #Cairo hashtag to publicize their new spring collection during the time of unrest in Egypt last winter. The brand caught a lot of flak for this and was widely condemned. They eventually deleted the tweet and issued an apology on Facebook.
Another example is the baked goods company Entenmann’s, who used the #notguilty hashtag, which at that time was trending due to the controversial verdict of the Casey Anthony murder trial. The backlash faced by them after the tweet was quite extreme, and people continued to be outraged even after the public statement made by them that the use of that particular hashtag was unintentional. People didn’t believe that it was a mistake and accused them of trying to take advantage of a very serious situation to advertise their products.
A study by Social Media B2B has shown that these tactics aren’t necessary. Their analysis indicates that posts without hashtags perform better than posts with hashtags.
- For the analysis, the study compares over 37,000 posts from 103 Twitter accounts belonging to professional marketers, with companies differing in size, and including most major industries.
- In 53% of the accounts, posts with hashtags actually performed worse than posts without hashtags.
In 21%, there was no significance difference in posts with and without hashtags, and only 26% of the accounts had more engagement in posts containing hashtags
Further analysis of the accounts that showed significant differences using or not using hashtags revealed that there are some general practices and insights to be noted when using hashtags successfully.
- Overly generic tags don’t work. A very broad tag like #socialmedia or #cricket will generate so many results that locating your tweet in the horde is pretty much impossible. Thus, contextual hashtags should be utilized more.
- One hashtag for a large conference is not feasible, for the same reason. It is better to have hashtags for individual speakers, or streamline on the basis of content in sub-events.
- Create your own hashtags for important events, make sure they are known to people in advance, and make them relevant! Thus, advertising or marketing the hashtags is important.
It is of primary importance to provide content that is useful and interesting to your followers, use hashtags only when they follow naturally and add value. Thus, it is advisable to create a hashtag around the content but not create content around a hashtag as that can sometimes have an unforeseen adverse effect.
Do you think overusing hashtags does work? What kind of hashtags do you think work better? Has using hashtags worked for you? Share with us.