Hashtags on Twitter: Spam, or genuinely useful?

The first Twitter hashtag was born on August 23, 2007 by Chris Messina, the first tweet with a hashtag read as follows: “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” In today’s world, hashtags make tweets more meaningful and identifiable. No conference or speech is complete without a hashtag these days.

This week I was at a conference about social media and fittingly there was an official hashtag: #smj2, so I followed the hashtag intently throughout the day to see what everyone’s thoughts were about the conference. Suddenly, a few hours into the conference people who weren’t at the conference started to get annoyed with the use of this particular tag. The angry tweets ranged from “Can people stop spamming me with #smj2” and “If people tweet #smj2 again I will unfollow you”, just to name a few.

Now this got me thinking, if I was seeing this on my Twitter stream, how would I feel about it? First I might see if this event is relevant to me, and if so I’d create a search around that hashtag so I could follow the event more closely. If not, then I’d use what I think is the most underrated Twitter feature: lists, which would enable me to filter out the noise from my main stream. So I totally understand the annoyance around hashtag clutter, but one could argue that there are tools Twitter have in place for users to filter out the noise.

So are hashtags here to stay? Undoubtedly so. Hashtags, when used correctly, can be of tremendous value, but when they’re not it can be easily classed as spam. So what are the solutions?

  • Identify whether or not the hashtag is relevant to you
  • If the noise is getting too crowded then divert to your Twitter lists to reduce the noise

What are your tips for filtering out hashtag clutter/spam?

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...

5 Comments

  1. Cameo Reply

    Agree, lists are a great way to manage conference hashtag spam but it can be very time consuming to create such a new list. Who are attending the event? Which attendees are not spamming my home feed?

    Two tweeters came up with the idea of hijack the hashtag, I was participating for wee while because of the fun of it 🙂
    I can understand why people may want to tweet a few quotes throughout the conference, cos it’s bloody interesting! But do they really need to tweet every minute? Should they concentrate on listening to the guest speaker instead of tweeting?
    How about they put all that useful info onto paper, and blog about it later. Share the blog post on Twitter and Facebook and i’m sure most would want to read one nice large entry.

    1. John Lai Reply

      Thanks for your thought’s Cameo

      Well not just even list, the search box alone, because any client nowadays has the option for users to create a new stream dedicated to that tag, with list it’s more like when your stream is filled up with all these tweets it’s good to divert back to those who you want to talk to and not seeing all the things going on your home stream.

      Of course a little fun can’t hurt anyone but what as interesting to see people getting really annoyed by it, so I thought this would be a good article to post to let people know there is options Twitter has put in place to combat these things 🙂

      I think with where Twitter is going the hashtag for users of Twitter is the easiest way to be relevant and sharing content, we have not caught up to the massive scale of other countries that use Twitter, it just shows New Zealand is so small that even on Twitter it can get populated

  2. @nickhealy Reply

    Interesting topic…

    It sometimes gets a little overwhelming when you see a specific hashtag being used aggressively over short bursts of time but it usually never lasts more than a few hours. I am a fan of hashtags and use them regularly to share and find relevant information with people who aren’t necessarily followers. They’re great for events too (as you mention). Also interesting to hear people are getting annoyed with the “overuse” of a hashtag. Like real life conversations, if you yell at someone for long enough they will walk away.

    I’m all for them but spam is spam in any language.

    1. John Lai Reply

      Hi @nickhealy ,

      cheers for your reply, great points you have made, but with twitter we have to know that twitter is not a small confine space, actually a huge room where we can move around when things are loud or overwhelming, twitter have make sure that tools are in place when we hear people shouting we can filter that out, It all comes down to personal responsibility

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