I’ve managed several work-related brands and my own Twitter stream for seven years, so I’m not a newbie to wading through the rapid fire of tweets and hashtags. I use both TweetDeck and Hootsuite for management and have multiple streams on the go when I check in, so lots of information moves across my screen. (Note I didn’t say screens. I’m not using two monitors, so you communicators out there who are, hats off and my sympathies.)
The other day I bumped up against a tweet that was entirely hashtags. I say bumped up against, as not one word stood out on its own and the tweet was a mess. It was a tangle of tags, one of which, ironically, was #communications.
Hashtags are a glorious tool. They catalogue, they fine tune, they connect communities, and they ignite movements. They are how people find news stories and trends. They can make readers laugh, rage, and emote along the range in between. Hashtags are divine.
Used poorly, however, they show Twitter at its worst. They are what people point to when they say Twitter makes no sense. At its best, Twitter is a platform to make a point and do so precisely.
Tweets can be beautiful compositions. Think of each tweet as an entire piece in and of itself. If a tweet is poorly written, your connection is lost and readers will skip along to the next because goodness knows there is always more information coming their way. If you consistently write bad tweets, you lose twice: in the present, and the future, because people will stop following you.
You want to be read; so write clearly. Even though hashtags may be on their way to taking over the world in all kinds of social media, they can still be overused. Nobody learns to read with hashtags in front of every word, so don’t write that way. Write with respect to your readers and use tags where they really count.
Tweeting about a new pregnancy education program?
Do: New program helps improve #healthliteracy during #pregnancy. (Add the link to the program at the end. I know that’s obvious to most, but it happens all the time that links are forgotten.)
I used health literacy to catalogue the tweet as well as the specific term pregnancy. It’s readable and obvious what it’s about. You could add other tags after your link to the program so that the body of the tweet stays clear.
Don’t: Join #new #education #program for #pregnancy.
Tagging the tweet with new, program and education is not helpful for what people might be looking for, and messes up the readability of your tweet.
Hashtags are great tools when used thoughtfully. They help users navigate to find people and information they want. If you overuse them, they confuse your message and undermine your authority.
Be concise, be precise. Hold that hashtag for clear communication.
Image: Ardelfin, Morguefile