Starting with a small suggestion from Chris Messina in 2007 to help organize a group on Twitter, the hashtag has become a huge part of social media.
However, many businesses make the mistake of overusing hashtags in an interest to drum up traffic. Their thought is often “why not?” when in fact they may be directly hurting themselves.
You’ve seen it yourself; a business (or even a person) posts a tweet that says something simple and includes a huge string of semi-relevant hashtags:
Check out our latest arrival http://link.com #awesome #happiness #summertime #sales #dontmissout #ilovehashtags #thesearegreat
According to a recent study:
…a tweet that doesn’t include a # or @ mention will generate 23 percent more clicks. When the tweet is focused on driving an app install, forgoing a # or @ mention increases clicks by 11 percent.
The reason is simple. According to Anne Mercogliano (via re/code), the head of small business marketing at Twitter, “all of the other clickable parts of the tweet are distracting people from doing what the advertiser wants”.
This is not to say that hashtags are bad. They are excellent for aiding conversations and organizing groups of people (particularly around an event). However, adding hashtags to try to draw more attention to an otherwise non-conversational tweet is likely to backfire. Keep it simple and make your call to action clear.