The use of hashtags on Twitter for chats and for marking tweets has exploded in the recent past. If used in moderation, they can be a valuable enhancement to Twitter.
The flip side, however, is that overuse of hashtags can create so much noise as to lessen their value or even render them unusable.
Vendors have especially seen hashtags as a way to promote their services. Is this evil? No. Twitter’s an open platform and anyone can provide value in their own ways.
Still, there are respectful ways to market ideas and products and services. And when vendors usurp hashtags in ways that lessen their value, the process eventually becomes counter-productive: for if everybody uses a hashtag or Twitter chat to promote their wares, nobody can pay attention to anything, and so the marketers lose in the long-run.
I’ve had a few conversations with vendors who I felt were abusing Twitter – needless to say, some were very angry with me. In fact, I feel as if one of them has basically threatened my reputation – I’m not completely certain it constituted a threat in the eyes of law, but it’s sad to see that kind of response.
Anyhoo, here’s a suggestion for vendors who seek to market their stuff via Twitter: create your own hashtag and/or Twitter chat. Here’s why:
- It’s “your” platform (not technically, since Twitter’s an open space, but you get credit for building up the community).
- You don’t run into the problem of appearing like a spammer on the work of others. For instance, Dana Lewis has done a wonderful job of leading #hcsm. It’s become a popular place for people in healthcare to connect. But it’s also becoming a place for vendors to overuse the tag to promote themselves. She does have some right in being respected for her work. If you’re in healthcare, you aught to be especially respectful of the community which people work to build.
- If you use the hashtag to run Twitter chats, you get to lead them and use them in whatever way you want.
- Your use of a hashtag can be a deeper and broader extension of your brand. If you build it right and provide valuable ideas, tips, etc. you position yourself as a leader, not a spammer and abuser of others’ work.
There are other justifications for branded hashtags but these should be enough to get a trend going.
Twitter has a role in marketing. But so does kindness, respect and appreciation for ideals.
We all use these hashtags to promote something – an idea, a blog post, a charity, a service. That’s OK. It’s just a matter of relevance, contribution and respect.
If you believe strongly in an idea or your brand, go build something that you can look upon with healthy pride.