Whither the Hashtag? It’s All About Evolving

Hints that the hashtag made famous by Twitter may be going the way of the dodo bird has gotten many social media addicts up in arms. But is it really a bad thing? HootSuite asked the question, “Will miss the hashtag when it’s gone,” and after contemplation I’m ready to say no.

There’s a point in time when almost everything cool becomes hackneyed and played. The hashtag has reached that point. Rather than group interesting and relevant conversations, hashtags have become punchline to jokes, redundant groupings of messages and shameless marketing campaigns. It’s not enough to follow Esurrance on Twitter, you have to use the #EsurranceSave30 hashtag.

Feel free to scan through your timeline and find a relevant and useful hashtag. It’s NCAA tournament time, so you’ll see the #MarchMadness tag. Anything useful there or is it just a random collection of noise? Anything useful with the #justsayin hashtag?

Sad to say, my friends and colleagues in the PR, advertising and social media professionals are probably the worst when it comes to hashtag. My pet peeve is the “official” hashtag for events and live tweeting events. There is only one thing better than  hashtag tied to an event and only one account is using the hashtag — when the hashtag and the Twitter user name are exactly the same. #Redundant.

The hashtag isn’t cool anymore. It has been rendered arcane by the explosion of dedicated Twitter accounts to specific topics, the deluge of marketing hashtags and a crush of open-mic night auditions. Twitter’s more powerful searches also make the hashtag less relevant than ever.

The lead buried under the death of the hashtag is Vivian Schiller, Twitter’s head of news, saying the company wants to “hide the scaffolding” of Twitter, make the platform easier to learn for new users and make Twitter better. If the hashtag fades into the background or even simply fades away entirely, there’s no guarantee that it’s replacement will be a hit. Maybe it will be new Coke and we’ll all want our hashtags back. But often times new is better, and I think it’s time for something new

How do you use the hashtag? Or perhaps a better question is this — which do you use more, putting hashtags in your updates or reading hashtag conversations? It seems more and more than Schiller is right: the hashtag is arcane, and it’s time for Twitter to grow up.

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