Hashtags are dead

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The use of hashtags by brands and organisations is dead, is what I mean. We now know how trivially easy they are to weaponise. They’re big, slow-moving targets for propagandists and terrorists. Clouds of branded chaff, too easily turned bad.

And brand countermeasures – closing accounts, removing content – are so ineffective, so after-the-fact, as to be pointless. And the more successful your hashtag, the more likely it is to be ‘hashjacked’ (sorry). No brand, no matter how ‘edgy’, can take the chance. The bad guys (the very, very bad guys) have a new social media strategy. It’s too late.

Let’s move on. Chris Messina’s invention will persist. Still be a good way to spontaneously organise a group on Twitter but as a way to label content or to rally the brand-loyal to your big show, they’re history.

And for marketing people they were never really about engagement or any of that Cluetrain stuff anyway. They were about measurement, about making ‘the conversation’ visible so it could be labelled and counted which, if not actually evil, is at least pretty cynical.

People will continue to talk about your brand, conversation will continue to peak around big events, sentiment will continue to ebb and flow. You just won’t know. 

And to be honest, I’m not sad. Twitter will still be a terrific place to share ideas and chat with interesting people (and I’m certain that no data scientist will be put out of work). Hashtags had become a kind of online litter anyway. A kind of consensual spam. Let’s think of something new.

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