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The Self-Destruction of Hashtags
By: Sarah Jane Dunaway
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During the Super Bowl last week, many commercials for brands featured Twitter hashtags. Along with the hashtags used in these ads, people were tweeting left and right using Super Bowl-themed trends such as #SuperBowlAds and #SuperBowlFoodAds.

The use of hashtags is an interesting idea to explore. On one hand, it’s a fantastic way for marketers to continue their branding efforts by using phrases or words coined to keep the conversation going. Just look at Volkswagen's Twitter trend #gethappy. Sure, there are some unrelated tweets from people just using the phrase #gethappy to describe their day, but most are tweeting at their beloved VW car brand — the hope of any marketer.

Another goal, of course, is a constant conversation. Nothing is worse than watching a few days go by without so much as a mention or trend-themed tweet. Oddly enough, the opposite may not be much better.

During the Super Bowl, my TweetDeck Twitter feed for #superbowlads almost froze my computer due to the continuous and extremely annoying tweets popping up all over my dashboard, courtesy of TweetDeck.

The alternative to a few trend-themed tweets is too many themed tweets. What happens when a trend is created for a topic that is too broad, such as #superbowlads? When GoDaddy’s kissing commercial aired, grossing out (and, I suppose, entertaining) millions of viewers, the result was an overabundance of #godaddy tweets, making it impossible for any voice on Twitter to be heard. 

The purpose of using #godaddy in a tweet became more for decorative purposes and the “cool” factor, and less about making a genuine statement about the brand. Perhaps the Super Bowl is an extreme example, especially given that many tuned in only for the commercials and to share their unheard opinions.

An amazing example of a Twitter trend I personally follow is #altsummit. The hashtag is used frequently throughout the day for bloggers who are speakers, fans, and attendees of the annual Altitude (Alt) Summit. Trending topics range from who is staying at what hotel for the conference to tips for growing your blog’s readership. It’s one of my must-read Twitter trends and I find all tweets from the feed to be useful and entertaining.

The opposite example is something like #godaddy, which offers an entertainment value if you decide to sit and really read comments about the hosting company’s kiss commercial during the Super Bowl. However, there are so many tweets about the ad, what’s the point in adding one more opinion? It occurs to me that in time, people will become more selective in the trends they follow and tweet about, at least those whose tweets are worth reading.

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About the Author

Sarah Jane Dunaway is a brand strategist and design consultant, and the writer and creator behind the blog Clean & Proper. A former member of the paper and printing industry, Sarah Jane specializes in helping businesses of all sizes streamline marketing communications by creating compelling brand identity systems and corporate identity packages. Find her online here

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