By now, most people on the social web are familiar with the hashtag symbol (#), which helps tag keywords in a tweet, allowing others to search for and find that content. Hashtags are simple to use and effective for search optimization, helping to improve keyword searches and connecting users with similar interests. They are important. However, in a bid to push content to more viewers, some users have taken the hashtag to a whole new, and very annoying level, by tagging #every #single #word.
As Todd Defren, from PR Squared explains in his post, “the people who read your content want to be treated as peers, not receptacles. If your content is truly great it shall be shared and found, regardless of how well you’ve optimized for the search engines”. While I agree with the his basic idea-create quality content that speaks for itself- I think it’s still important to help optimize it for search and that includes using the hashtag. The social web is a big place and good content can sometimes get lost, so as I perceive it, having a hashtag is helpful because it categorize information and hopefully present it to the appropriate viewers. The key however is not to go overboard and find a balance between being helpful (by tagging relevant information) and just downright pushy.
And how do you do this?
Although it involves a lot of hard work, the answer is simple. Be a part of the community. Listen to your audience and the conversations they’re having. Know what information is and is not important to these people. In other words, focus on the core elements of public relations and social media- that is to build relationships and foster conversation- so that if/when you need to tag your tweets, you can include hashtags that are relevant and helpful to these conversations. Tag better, not more.
Updated: Julia Turner, of New York Times Magazine, wrote a great article called “In Praise of the Hashtag,” which can be found here, and is definitely worth a read.