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An Urgent Appeal: Crimes Against Hashtags

This is an urgent appeal.

Every day, across the world, people are committing crimes against hashtags.

Please. If you can spare just 5 minutes of your time we may be able to rid the world of these atrocities.

All you need to do is read these 5 crimes, check you’re not committing them and if you are – stop!

Susan Boyle’s PR team know only too well how hashtags can backfire.

Crime 1: Using #irrelevant hashtags

Social media is like information soup and hashtags let you choose the flavour.

The whole point of using hashtags is to be able to sort the complicated jumble of content into meaningful categories.

Using hashtags that aren’t relevant to your post won’t help you, your audience or anyone else on the platform.

Irrelevant hashtags on a boxing instagram post

The screenshot above is taken from an Instagram page about boxing. Clearly the first few hashtags are completely relevant but then it descends into a string of pointless, non-related words.

Check out Peg Fitzpatrick‘s video below to avoid using irrelevant hashtags!



Crime 2: Overuse

I don’t care what anyone says, there’s no set recipe for a social media post. (Soup, now recipes… can you tell I was cooking before I wrote this?)

Sure, there are limits to the number and type of characters, images, links etc. that you can use but I firmly believe that you need to think about what is going to help you achieve your goal rather than worry about your posts being perfect.

There is also no perfect number of hashtags to use. It’s really easy to overdo it though.

Take Instagram for example.  The main point is the visual content but people still read the words.

#Using #hashtags #for #every #word #on #a #post makes it a nightmare to read and shows a clear misunderstanding of their function, as the screenshot below shows.

Oh and by the way, going back to the relevance thing, the picture was a can of coke…


Overuse of hashtags


Jared Polin goes into more detail for you in this video!



Crime 3: Hashjacking

Hashjacking is when someone uses a specific hashtag for a purpose other than what was intended. For example, #smallbusinesssaturday or #madeinbritainhour are used at particular times and are clearly for particular people.

The 10 Worst Brand Fails on Twitter highlights exactly what I’m talking about in this and the next point.

If your business is relevant (there’s that word again) to these events and you have something valuable to say then by all means get involved, if it’s not, don’t.

The US chamber of commerce below got called out on Twitter when they used #smallbusinesssaturday to promote Blaine’s Farm and Fleet a retail chain with 36 stores and over 1000 employees (according to their LinkedIn page).

Large company being promoted using  #smallbusinesssaturday


Crime 4: Insensitive Hashjacking

Sometimes something is trending because of a catastrophic natural disaster or a high profile death.

Again, there is no clear black and white with this one, I just suggest that you think carefully about whether you feel passionately about the cause/person/event or are trying to get in on some hype. If there’s even a slight risk that it might be the latter you’re probably better off not risking it.

This article from a Singaporean magazine features this utter shambles by Gap during Hurricane Sandy:

Gap attempting to promote themselves using a hashtag for hurricane sandy


Crime 5: Not researching the hashtags you are using

Ok, this one is a bit more forgivable than the other 4 and it’s not always easy to do – that’s why I put it last.

There are tools out there to help you find the right hashtags to use to get maximum exposure for your posts. One example is but I’m sure there are plenty of others out there (please comment below with suggestions).

Here’s an example:

We recently wrote an article for our lab product brand about antibiotics. The term used by the company using the products is ‘antimicrobial resistance’ which can also be called ‘antibiotic resistance’.

Using I found that #antibioticresistance has a popularity score of 44.1 whereas #antimicrobialresistance only has a score of 33.7. Antibiotic resistance is also much more commonly used in industry so of course we went with that one.

Popularity score for #antimicrobialresistance according to

Popularity score for #antibioticresistance according to


Thank you again for taking the time to read my appeal and please, next time you post on social media. Think.

If you have any more examples of crimes against hashtags, or have any further questions get in touch via the comments or on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Please don’t call specific people out by posting links or telling us their usernames though; we’re all learning here!

Carl Lincoln
Carl Lincoln

Carl is a Kent based Marketing Manager and has a personal finance blog called Wiser Wealthier.

Expect short, punchy, actionable posts.

Connect with Carl on LinkedIn.