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Is Your Nonprofit Guilty of #Hashtag Spamming?

April 9, 2012
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A recent study concluded that only about one-third of tweets are worth reading and with Twitter now generating 340 million tweets per day, that’s approximately 266 millions tweets that would have been better left untweeted. Finding your Twitter voice is a skill and it takes a concerted effort to first track what tweets your followers react to (or not) and then adjust your content and tweets accordingly. In general, most direct marketing pitches and fundraising asks are ignored and increasingly an overuse or incorrect use of hashtags can do more harm to your nonprofit’s brand on Twitter than good. Too many hashtags in one tweet can look messy or nonsensical, decrease click-through rates, and subtly communicate to your followers than you are a hashtag spammer i.e., you’re not really monitoring or participating in the conversation around a certain hashtag, just spamming it in hopes of getting more followers – which doesn’t work by the way.

That said, I know that opinions and strategies on tweeting vary widely, so I am going to let you vote and share your thoughts on hashtag spamming with the hope that potential hashtags spammers reading your feedback will reconsider their use of hashtags. Below are five actual tweets by nonprofits. You tell us if you think the Twitterer is guilty of hashtag spamming:

Tweet #1 :: Hashtag Spammer or Not? VOTE

Tweet #2 :: Hashtag Spammer or Not? VOTE

Tweet #3 :: Hashtag Spammer or Not? VOTE

Tweet #4 :: Hashtag Spammer or Not? VOTE

Tweet #5 :: Hashtag Spammer or Not? VOTE

Related Links:
Webinar: How Nonprofits Can Successfully Use Twitter and LinkedIn
Five Nonprofits That Have Found Their Twitter Voice

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2012 5:18 am

    There is a difference between pointless use of hashtags in a tweet 1, such as #rainforests in your set above, and common sense use.

    The reason I suggest that the example is pointless is because the tweet itself is uninformative in that it adds nothing to my understanding of rainforests. As a tweet it is a childlike tweet.

    Other example tweets you’ve chosen have different characteristics. 2 appears to inform several different discussion areas. The tweet itself is arcane and more tagged and linked than valuable. 3 is devoid of message, and poorly worded. Tags or no tags are irrelevant to it. 4 is informative, purely. But it is like the sound of one handed clapping, and I don;t feel like finding out who tweeted it. 5 is pleasant.

    None of these show what I recognise as spam per se. What they do is to range from interesting to dreadful in 140 characters. The presence or absence of tags is not what I judge them by. Content is king, especially in 140 characters. I feel common sense was absent in many of the examples rather than hashtag spamming being present

    I’m no expert. I’m a simple volunteer tweeting on behalf of a delightful museum. I get tweets right a bit more than I get them wrong. I’m learning as I go, and I’m grateful for article like this one to help me reach conclusions about better ways to use the medium

  2. shimkatesnyder permalink
    April 9, 2012 5:53 am

    Honestly, I didn’t have a problem with any of the tweets above. The Affordable Care Act came close, but I don’t know what the hashtag acronyms mean. To someone “in the know” they might be utterly appropriate.

    Applying hashtags to common words like #rainforest or #diabetes seems like wasted effort, perhaps, since I don’t know how many people really go searching for tweets based on simple, broad hashtags. But I wouldn’t call them spam.

    My favorite hashtags are actually the “commentary” tags, like #toocuteforwords because they add flavor and personality to a tweet.

  3. April 9, 2012 8:59 am

    Honestly, I prefer the #hashtags that are included as part of the natural grammatical structure of the tweet. That helps to ensure that when someone searches for that tag, they will find a tweet that is obviously relevant. My votes above had nothing to do with the CONTENT of the tweet or the links they contained, ’cause that’s not what you asked.

  4. April 9, 2012 2:37 pm

    Interesting topic. I have been very careful with using hashtags since attending your book tour. Recently I wanted to create a way to thank Donors for a specific fundraising campaign related to a crisis. I use the hashtag #FloodFund. I searched on Twitter first to make sure it wasn’t in use. Now on the amazoncares.org website, on the homepage and the donors page, people see a scrolling twitter badge, not of our entire stream, just those thanking our donors for helping during this special time!

  5. April 10, 2012 8:02 am

    I didn’t identify any of the tweets as spam. I agree completely with Tim that sometimes multiple tags are required in a tweet to inform different communities/groups and this may be the case with Tweet #2 and #3 that some might consider spam but as they have put all the hashtags at the end, I think this is OK as it may be relevant to those different groups. Sometimes there is a need to decide which nouns to tag and not every single one! Decide which group/conversation the tweet is best for and tag those nouns. If I was searching for information or communities around rainforests or diabetes then those hashtags would be relevant and make it easier for me the user to find that content. I do however find what shimkatesnyder calls commentary tags really annoying. How are they helpful if tagging is a search tool? To me these tags are completely pointless unless they’re for a specific campaign.

  6. ahines permalink
    April 18, 2012 12:28 pm

    It’s certainly difficult to get tweeting down to a science, but I think tweets like 4 and 5 (but especially 5) really hit the nail on the head. When tweets have too many links or hashtags I tend to glaze over them. The best part about 5 is that they use the hashtag to emotionally engage the reader. If the manatee really is #toocuteforwords then of course I would want to look at it. I’ll probably click that link and continue on to read about that organization more than any of them.
    It’s so important to appeal to your reader’s emotions. We all love information, but like any present it’s so much better when it’s wrapped up and and delivered in a delightful package.

  7. Doyles permalink
    April 23, 2012 1:33 am

    It’s not so much an individual tweet that looks like hashtag spamming to me; it’s the excessive frequency of using hashtag in what seems like every tweet and the use of hashtags in @replies that are of no relevance to anyone other than the person receiving the @ reply.

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