First a disclaimer: I love social media, both from a personal and a business standpoint. It’s transformed the way we connect with friends and family just as much as it’s transformed the marketing and advertising worlds. But just like any great new invention, when everyone uses it (and overuses it) it has potential to defeat the purpose. Raise your hand if you have a friend on any social media outlet (because the hashtag is no longer restrained to Twitter alone) who has to tag #every #word #as #if #they’re #all #of #equal #importance? Annoying, right? While companies may not be quite as blatant about their overuse, it’s still happening in the form of asking consumers to connect with them in any way possible.
I’ve been noticing this hashtag overload for a while, but it never really hit me until I was watching American Idol this week (my guilty pleasure–no spoilers ahead if you’re the other person in the world who still watches this show). They’ve tried to revamp the program this season to cater to a younger audience, and it’s no secret that the has-been reality show is struggling to keep up with competitors, getting record-breaking low ratings so far. So their solution: more involvement for the few still involved.
Usually this is a good idea for companies. Hashtags are not only free, but they have potential to reach millions of people instantly. They’re also great for marketers to gauge how many people are engaged with certain aspects of the show to suggest improvements for the future. But at the same time, they’re like exclamation points: they should be used sparingly and only when you really want to make a point. When American Idol gives us a new hashtag every five minutes during the show, it loses its value. By this point in the show I pretty much ignore every hashtag they throw at us, and if I weren’t interested in social media marketing I would have ignored them a long time ago.
The moral of the story: less is more when it comes to hashtags. One example of a good use of this marketing tool I think is Jimmy Fallon’s hashtag game, because it’s only one tag once a week, yet it nearly always ends up on Twitter’s top trending list. The possibility of a reward (getting your tweet featured on the show) also helps the sharing process. Sometimes advertisers tend to forget the “What’s In It For Me” rule that people won’t just use your hashtag because you told them to. They want something in return.
Hashtags can be a wonderful way to engage audiences, but at the same time they can get very annoying very quickly. Consumers can tell when you’re begging for interaction, and we don’t tend to like that type of desperate advertising.
What do you think? Are we in a hashtag-overload stage of advertising? Or is this just the way of the future, and consumers should learn to adapt to it?