No One Uses #Hashtags Anymore

#ORLY?

Here’s an interesting one for the social media heads in the audience: hashtags are OUT. #Apparently.

First, a post on Poynter this morning by Shadi Rahimi, deputy producer of engagement for Al-Jazeera’s AJ+, claims that many reporters now refrain from using hashtags on social in order to avoid taking editorial positions on contentious issues like recent events in Baltimore.

Her point is that, by choosing, say, #BaltimoreUprising over #BaltimoreRiots, the staffers at AJ+ could be perceived to be taking an editorial stance on the events inspiring the tags. As journalists, they aspire to cover the stories objectively–especially when they evoke very strong reactions from disparate groups of readers. Rahimi also notes that–contrary to expectations–its tweets about Caitlyn Jenner got more engagement without the #CallMeCaitlyn tag.

But hashtags haven’t just fallen out of favor on the editorial side.

According to an internal Twitter study covered by Re\code yesterday, tags do NOT actually lead to more engagement on promo campaigns. Twitter released the data to help its advertisers hawk their wares more effectively, but it’s all very relevant to PR or anyone who manages a client’s social presence.

The basic conclusion: tweets lacking @ signs and tags lead to more clicks. This is true whether you’re trying to drive followers to a website or get them to download an app, primarily because all those links tend to distract people from the message you want to convey.

We have had the same experience on a personal level: while many tags like #muckedup and #Adweekchat serve as crucial resources, you’ll be hard-pressed to start a conversation with a tag unless you’re a very powerful influencer. Basic tags like #tech are completely useless, and jumping into trending stories in order to increase exposure is often a bad idea (as DiGiorno and any number of other brands can tell you).

So tags aren’t gone, they’re just less relevant to brand strategy as their value becomes clearer.

For the record, some people still use them all the time and even place them in emails. But that practice has always been very #lame.