A new study has revealed that using Twitter hashtags does next to nothing to improve engagement rates. Using emojis and handles helps a little more, but adding none of these features to your tweets works best for engagement.
So is it time to drop the hashtag from your social marketing and communications, at least on Twitter?
Social media monitoring firm Mention revealed some interesting findings about Twitter hashtags and other elements of engagement in its Twitter Engagement Report 2018.
One of the key findings is that “using hashtags does not appear to increase Twitter engagement. In fact, the median number of engagements goes down with each hashtag added”. That means stop stuffing your tweets with hashtags because it doesn’t work.
Some of the other main findings regarding Twitter hashtags include:
- Five of the 10 most engaging hashtags in 2017 were about South Korean boy bands;
- The most popular Twitter hashtags were #giveaway #quote #win #marketing and #travel;
- Nearly 40% of tweets contain a hashtag; and
- In general, hashtags – including those in your bio – do not increase Twitter engagement.
As the findings show, it helps to be a South Korean boy band on Twitter. However, since you’re probably not in the K-pop business, should you still bother with Twitter hashtags or ditch them entirely?
Hashtags have become a staple of how many people, especially marketers, use social media. According to various reports, on August 23, 2007, Chris Messina was the first person to use a hashtag on Twitter. Messina used the hashtag to group and differentiate search terms on the platform, making it easier for users to find topics relevant to them:
“Essentially there was a widespread desire in the early Twitter community to provide some means for groups to organize themselves. Many looked to the model of Flickr and other standard web-based group systems as inspiration. It occurred to me, however, that a significant amount of Twitter usage occurred over SMS or other low-bandwidth channels, making group management tedious, if not impossible. Discovery of groups while on the go was another problem.”
There’s still a case for the judicious and selective use of Twitter hashtags. For example, hashtags are still highly relevant to users keeping track of live events, whether that’s major sports or entertainment events or even things like industry conferences or webinars. If you’re going to use Twitter hashtags, make them specific and relevant.
However, there’s far less need to append generic hashtags to your tweets just for the sake of it and because a few years ago you were told that’s what you’re meant to do. Don’t go fishing for engagement with generic bait.
Twitter users have moved on, and to quote from the classic Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake sketch, the engagement you’re going to get is more likely to be along the lines of #STFU.
The main lesson here is don’t run your social media strategy on autopilot. What worked yesterday is not necessarily going to work tomorrow. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social media platform, your business has to keep monitoring engagement metrics and tweaking and testing to see what works best.
Every few months you should review the basic strategies for each platform your business is using, with an eye to revising strategy to reflect what you’ve observed.