Venngage recently published an article and infographic titled “We Looked At 137,052 Tweets & Found Out Hashtags Are Worthless”. A controversial title that I don’t believe reflect the full story, but certainly does show some sad signs.
We’re going to briefly look at:
- What they studied
- What they found
- Why I believe hashtags still have a use
- Some application points based off their research
Why Venngage Believes Hashtags Are Worthless
The study looked at some big topics on Twitter and then investigated how many were posted by real people, dubious accounts, and then fake bots (“ZeroSpam” bots designed to make tweets look more popular than they are).
They discovered that a shocking number of big topics like Marketing, advertising, SEO and a like contained very few real tweets and most of them were spam (I suspect you might have guessed this if you’ve been on twitter and experienced this type of spam first hand).
Their conclusion is that it isn’t worth bothering to use these hashtags in your tweets as they will get lost in a sea of spam. Instead they suggest using tweets to start conversations.
Why Hashtags Are Still Useful
There are a few things to consider when looking at this research:
- The hashtags they checked are topics which attract spam
- They are generic hashtags
- They don’t look at trending topics
Certain topics are going to attract more spam than others, hashtags attached to “get rich quick” ideas are certainly going to attract more. That’s something worth considering when you look towards hashtags.
Likewise, if you create your own hashtag and use that to drive conversations, then you are unlikely to get as much spam (unless it get’s popular enough to make a trending topic list. At which point the trend jackers come!) For proof of this, take a look at the #cmagcast hashtag used by the ChurchMag Podcast which has been very useful for building connections between churches (as well as the writers and readers), helping them find more useful topics to discuss on the podcast, and learning from the listeners.
On that note, trending topics can attract a lot of spam.
Finally, Twitter has been making moves toward reducing spam that users see with it’s quality filter. This might stop a lot of this spam in its tracks, making hashtags much more useful again.
I believe there are some simple common sense steps to take after looking at this data:
- When considering using a hashtag, check the quality of the feed (if there is a lot of spam, use a different feed).
- Avoid hashtags that attract spam (generic topics, get rich quick related topic.
- Create your own hashtags to generate more discussion.
What do you think? Are hashtags Useless?