To Hashtag, or Not to Hashtag?

Hashtags, hashtags, everywhere. Some use it, others don’t. Some like to use many, others prefers. But are we overkilling it? At times, the dizzying array of hashtags in a single post is enough to drive someone crazy (the writer herself is guilty of doing it, until she found herself on the receiving end.) With Facebook being the latest site falling into this frenzy, we present to you a guideline for it.

History

In 1988, a platform called Internet Relay Chat (IRC) initiated the usage of hashtags in order to group related content. Twitter formally recognised hashtags in 2009, although it had already been a prevalent practice to use them for almost 2 years. The term hashtag was first coined by a blogger named Stowe Boyd, in his August 2007 post tilted “Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings.”

What for?

If we are to state the obvious, yes, it’s for highlighting and hyper-linking a particular key term, so that others with a similar interest can search for that hashtag and (hopefully) land on your post amid hundreds of others.

To cite a very recent, prominent example, the latest Israel-Palestine conflict in August saw an over-abundant usage of hashtags such as “#FreePalestine”, “#GazaUnderAttack” etc. The hashtag “#SupportGaza” even became a trending topic on Facebook.

#SupportGaza

Another popular site with extensive hashtags is none other than Instagram, with a study revealing 83% of posts carry at least one hashtag. It is also quite apparent that the more hashtags a posts, the more likes it will get, within a maximum limit of 30. A list containing the most popular ones can be found here.

Etiquette

Wait, hang in there! Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should set off on a hashtag rampage on your social media! A venture to earn more likes, might upset your followers, and worst of all you stand to lose potential ones. Ifraj, a student from Dhaka, admits losing interest in following particular people & pages, simply owing to the fact he got irritated by their undiscerning use of hashtags (and he is certainly not alone).

Meanwhile Lisa, a photographer, pointed out the incorrect method of arranging your hashtags, “It should be #MyLifeSucks, not #My #Life #Sucks!”

Hashtag etiquette!
For those who want a better idea, here’s a more detailed take on hashtag etiquette by gremln.

The Verdict

There’s a genuine feeling in the air that the saying “The sky’s the limit” has been stretched too far when it comes to hashtags. What’s the ideal number of hashtags then? If we are to rely on statistics, the number 11 will earn you the most likes on Instagram. However, for the sake of your followers’ sanity, keeping it within 3-5 is strongly advised. If you still wish to add more hashtags, either to get more likes or gain more followers, a useful trick would be to add the remaining ones in the comments. This has the same effect as adding them in your caption.

Miss Economist is a budding economist, currently studying at University of Dhaka. She is an avid blogger and a firm believer in pragmatism. You can follow her on Twitter!

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