Hashtag Protocol: What you Should and Shouldn’t Do

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the social robot hashtag fail
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by Bethaney Wallace

the social robot hashtag failAs thousands of new users sign up for Twitter each day, more and more addresses are talking, RTing, Friday Following, and favoriting their way across the web. Topics trend, celebrities and verified, and hashtags of all shapes and lengths will turn into self-made links. You know, those semi meaningless statements we all post after our real thoughts have been typed. For instance “ #cantstandit , #divorceishard , or #food – which are the first three examples I found.

Whether used to expand a statement (after all, we are only given 140 characters) or to link a trend, it’s a practice that’s become almost as popular as tweeting itself.

But like any good thing, there’s those who are out to ruin it. Because there is no set hashtag protocol, users place the character as they see fit. However, not all instances call for a pound-sign-then-words scenario.

To better control the hashtag-iverse, I suggest:

Understanding How it Works

Why use the hashtag on Facebook? In texts? Or in any other medium other than Twitter? Unless it’s a specific context (for instance, #thisone), the hashtag simply doesn’t work. There’s no link, users have to decipher which words are being smushed together, and no merit exists. What’s the point?

Ill-placed signs can also confuse readers without a Twitter account. (Yes, those people exist.) One of the best examples of technology-illiterate users can be found in the sitcom Raising Hope. In one episode, two middle-aged parents decide, “If the 40-year-olds on Glee can act like teenagers, so can we,” and begin sharpening up on modern-day lingo. In their quest, they fail to grasp the hashtag, using it as an insult instead.

“Hashtag!”

“Hashtag Virginia is awesome. Reply all.”

Don’t Include Punctuation

Another oddity of the hashtag is that any sign of punctuation negates its link. No commas, periods, or apostrophes allowed. Those who do include grammar marks are left with an awkward, impartial word their tweet. If it’s necessary to tag, leave out the marks all together. We’ll know you’re doing it on purpose, I swear. Just remember to include the proper punctuations the rest of the time.

Leave out the Obscure

Finally, my biggest pet peeve, unnecessary and ridiculous hashtags – people who sandwich together an entire slew of words, usually that have no reference to social media or public knowledge. For instance, #nevertrustyour10yearold or #thisispossiblythelongesthashtagthathaseverbeenwrittenever. Do users think others will click on that link? Do they think anyone else will tag it? Again (sigh) what is the point? Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 12.16.06 PM

Others have taken to capitalization to help readers decipher words, #LikeThis. Twitter doesn’t give a what about proper nouns, and links them all the same. Therefore users who create #thesocialrobot and #TheSocialRobot will be taken to the same clicking destination. While it’s true these versions are easier to read, I’d prefer if we didn’t need them at all. If so many words are used that distinguishing sizes are required, maybe it shouldn’t be hashtaged. Besides, we’ve already put a kibosh on punctuation, why try to make other aspects grammatically correct?

While it looks as though hashtags are here to stay, we can only hope that some of its bad habits are not. Stick to tagging in a smart, sensical manner to keep your followers easily informed … and to keep @wonderwall7 and I off your back.

Bethaney Wallace

Bethaney Wallace is a tea drinking, Amazon loving writer and editor. When she's not working on TSR or her personal blog, she loves reading and looking for new DIY projects.

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  • http://createhullabaloo.com/ Hullabaloo

    I’m glad someone else hates it #whenpeopledothis