When is a hashtag not a hashtag?

I think I’ll be more pretentious this year. Plus, I’ll hashtag the fuck out of everything. #smh


That was my Facebook status earlier this year. And after posting it, a few people asked me about hashtags.  I am delighted to respond:


What are hashtags?

Hashtags are the annoying things you see attached to comments and status updates on Twitter and Facebook (and other social media communities) – but they originated (and can still function) as useful metadata that tags the content with relevant keywords. They can also be used to ‘categorize’ your conversation, which is most helpful when searching for and filtering conversation threads on Twitter. Examples:

This team SUCKS!  #vikings

My feet are frozen to the ground. #MinnesotaWinter

Stop feeding your baby juice. #nutrition

Have you meditated today? #wellnessChat


When are hashtags helpful?

As I mentioned just two seconds ago, hashtags are helpful when you’re searching for information — or following a certain topic (or ‘thread’) on social media. They can act as a filter in your search results. A popular way to use hashtags is if you’re hosting a conversation on Twitter — like the (semi)weekly #CopyTalk I started about a month ago.

CopyTalk is a sputtering chat I initiated on Twitter, Tuesday nights, 9:30-10:30CST, to engage other writers who work what I call “the 3rd shift”. We talk about…. that’s right, copywriting, what inspires us, what we’re working on, what we’re drinking, and other things copy.

But enough about me – let’s talk about a useful example — like SocialNicole‘s #NPTalk. Now there’s a hashtag with purpose, art and fine execution. Here’s an example of a regular #NPTalk on Twitter, in transcript form at the official NPTalk(SM) website. (which yes, I highly recommend you peruse and explore for smart and useful information related to non profit marketing)


When is a hashtag not a hashtag?

Or, when is a hashtag not helpful, but annoying:

1. When it’s been bastardized into – what I call – stage directions that people add for emphasis, just in case we can’t tell what they’re really thinking. Examples:

#SMH = shaking my head. (we get it, you’re feeling disbelief)

#fistpump (we get it, you’re awesome)

#duckingforcover (we get it, you said something you think will make people angry)

#Giggle (we get it, you’re seven years old)

2. When it’s really just a long sentence, or a collection of words for effect. Examples:



#newhaircolor #fun #red #yayme!


Gosh Kim, you’re kinda cranky about hashtags.

Naw, I’m just particular. And so what if I am? I’m a copywriter, and words are my job. Now get your undies out of a bundle, because I didn’t say ‘bad’ or ‘good’ use of hashtags. I clarified helpful, not helpful …. and annoying. Let’s recap:


#ahmaggodi’minloooooooove = NOT HELPFUL or USEFUL. But hey, enjoy yourself.

Got your own thoughts about hashtags? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Can’t get enough of them? Tell me about it –

Yours truly,


4 thoughts on “When is a hashtag not a hashtag?

  1. When I’m at an event or conference, I really like hash tags. Makes it easy to see live feed from attendees (even if you are missing the event and can only attend virtually). It’s fun to see what people are doing/learning especially if there are multiple sessions happening at one time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *