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Have We Taken the #Hashtag Too Far?
By: Aprel Phelps Downey
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The hashtag burst onto the social media scene in 2007 as a way to enhance user interaction on Twitter. Being the new kid on the block, the hashtag brought versatility and a sense of creativity to the neighborhood. A basic tweet could now take on a whole new meaning with the humorous addition of a hashtag. It was a convenient way for Twitter users to add their tweet to a particular topic or virtually join in on a conversation of interest.  
Fast forward six years and the hashtag is still going strong. Maybe a little too strong. A symbol once exclusive to Twitter can now be found on virtually every social media outlet. Hardly a single picture is uploaded to Instagram without a hashtag attached. LinkedIn quietly added the hashtag to its interactive features. Facebook is the latest to jump on the bandwagon as hashtags have started popping up on status updates and comment boxes in recent weeks.
Quite frankly all of this rampant hashtag use is quickly becoming overkill. Everywhere we look there are hashtags for one thing or another. Movies, books, TV commercials, magazine ads, and anything else we can think of now feature a hashtag of some sort. Twitter conversations utilizing a singular hashtag can generate 2,000+ tweets for popular topics. Who could possibly keep up with a conversation of that magnitude?
Celebrities contribute to the overkill problem by including hashtags with tweets and Instagram pictures as part of product endorsement deals. This social media interaction is linked with TV commercials with the same hashtag. Fans see this and send similar social media messages with that hashtag. As a result timelines and News Feeds are cluttered with a singular repetitive hashtag word or phrase. In any other form of communication this repetitive action would be viewed as spam.
Misuse comes into play with the inappropriate way some include hashtags in their message delivery. There is the frustrating #hashtag #before #each #word #in #a #sentence. Try understanding the ever-popular hashtag followed by a long phrase without spaces #becauseitrocks. These examples are visually unappealing and fail to share an intended message of importance or social value. When a Twitter timeline or Facebook news feed is full of messages such as these it can be virtually impossible to understand what anyone has to say.
When utilized as intended, hashtags can serve their intentional purpose. Movies can generate interest, almost guaranteeing filling theatre seats on opening day. TV shows can interact with viewers allowing them to make pivotal choices about upcoming shows. Charitable causes can receive donations around the world with the use of a single, well-publicized hashtag.
Give the #hashtag a well-deserved break. Let events such as #BostonStrong stand out from the crowd, receiving the love and support of the nation as a result. When in doubt, please feel free to leave the hashtag out. Social media sends its thanks and appreciation!   

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About the Author
Aprel Phelps Downey is a writing/marketing professional who holds more than seven years marketing experience, including all aspects of promotional and informational campaigns and website development.  To learn more about Aprel please visit her website at www.aprelphelpsdowney.com or follow her on twitter: @aphelpsdowney.
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