To Hash or Not to Hash? A Decision Making Guide

Twitter Hashttag flow chart excerptUsing a decision-making flowchart, this post helps people determine whether they should include one or more hashtags in their tweets. This guidance is offered as an extension of the recent post, 6 Tips to Avoid Making a Hash of Twitter Hashtags. The post also provides links to additional resources that enable both rookie and more experienced Twitter users to maximize their tweeting effectiveness, as well as a LI poll designed to determine the optimum number of tweets per day.


Last month I wrote 6 Tips to Avoid Making a Hash of Twitter Hashtags. Like many of the pieces I’ve written about Twitter, it really seemed to strike a chord with people, as it was widely read and shared. After continuing to observe the misuse and abuse of hashtags, I decided it might be useful to create a flowchart that helps people decide when and how to include one or more hashtags in their tweets.

This flowchart should be viewed as an extension of the previous Twitter hashtag post, and I recommend you (re)read that first to help put these recommendations in context. The fundamental point of the flowchart is to help people avoid adding unnecessary, gratuitous, and potentially spammy #s to their tweets. They’re less critical than many people assume, and using them inappropriately can actually detract from a tweet rather than enhance it. Plus, with only 140 characters to work with, precious space shouldn’t be squandered. A good rule to follow is

When in doubt, leave it out!

As always, I welcome your comments, questions and other feedback. You can find a downloadable/printable pdf version of the flowchart on SlideShare.

– Courtney Shelton Hunt

PS – Be sure to scroll down to access related Twitter resources. I’m also running a poll on LinkedIn to determine the optimal number of targeted tweets per day. I hope you’ll vote, comment and/or share the poll to maximize our response rate. Thanks!

Twitter Hashtag Decision Flow Chart

Finding the Tweets Per Day Sweet Spot

Do you use Twitter for professional purposes? Do you follow organizations that use Twitter as a news feed? If so, please participate in a LinkedIn poll focused on determining the optimal number of targeted tweets per day. The poll will be open until July 24, 2012, and the results will be beneficial to anyone who tweets on behalf of an organization. We’d love to get 500+ responses, which is absolutely possible with your votes and sharing help. Thanks in advance!

Click here to respond to the poll. We’ve collected over 150 votes already, and the results so far are enlightening and maybe even a bit surprising. I’m also getting some interesting comments on the various LI groups and other digital communities in which I’ve shared the question/poll.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about this poll, its origins, and what we intend to do with the results.

Related Resources

Twitter for Rookies: Simple Guidance for Getting Started

Writing an EffectiveTweet

15 Twitter “Worst Practices” for Rookies (and Others) to Avoid

6 Tips to Avoid Making a Hash of Twitter Hashtags

Twitter Cross-Posting to LinkedIn: Stop the In-spam-ity!!!

Top Twitter Abbreviations You Need to Know

Finding the Tweets Per Day Sweet Spot, Part I

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Samuel Lovett

Thanks for this post developing hashtag use a bit more. This flow chart is good for getting gratuitous-hashtag-use people like me to think about the end-goals of tagging before using them.

Andrew Krzmarzick

This flow chart is excellent, Courtney. Appreciate the thought you put into it.

I might actually use a different rule of thumb (which I think better captures the spirit of your flow chart):

Asking “Should I?” Try to apply.

From personal experience, I always try to apply a hashtag whenever I can as it increases the number of people who will potentially see it. Here’s why:

– Twitter is very noisy.

– I have a limited number of followers.

– Hashtags expand the total number of potential viewers of that tweet.


Courtney Shelton Hunt

Thanks, Andrew and Chris. I’m glad you found the piece valuable.

Andrew, hashtags don’t necessarily increase the number of people who will see your tweets, unless you include one that is a unique concatenation of terms and/or people are inclined to use the hashtag when they search. Let’s take Chicago, for example. I just ran Twitter searches on Chicago with and without the hashtag. After several minutes, the search for Chicago without the hashtag produced 197 new tweets, whereas the one with the hashtag only produced 57 (and the gap keeps growing).

Although not everyone uses Twitter search, I might suggest conducting a similar experiment with some of the nonuinique terms you may be using to see what produces the best results. You can do something similar with variations of similar unique hashtags (e.g., #socialmedia, #socmed, #sm, #some), and using different search tools too.

Hope this helps.

Courtney Shelton Hunt

PS – On the other hand…

I just ran another experiment using #socmed and socmed. As with Chicago, the general search socmed had more activity, but it also included tweets with #socmed. So using the hashtag means your tweets will show up in both types of search, whereas not using means it won’t.

Again, I recommend experimenting with different searches and choosing your hashtags based on the results your experiments produce. If adding the hashtag doesn’t add significant value to the search results, it doesn’t make sense to include it.

David B. Grinberg

Thanks, Courtney, for sharing your wisdom and expertise about Twitter — very useful. The poll results should be interesting. I’ve read that the optimal time to tweet for maximum readership is between 1:00-3:00 p.m. Not sure how that was determined. Any feedback on this?

Courtney Shelton Hunt

Yes, David, the poll results are VERY interesting. With almost 300 responses, a consensus seems to have emerged – and it’s not what people would think!

As for time of day, lots of people love to quote Dan Zarella’s work to identify optimal times, but it really does depend on each account’s own following. I just started using a tool called SocialBro, which provides a specific recommendation based on an account’s unique characteristics. I don’t know how reliable it is, but you might want to check it out. SocialBro has a bunch of other interesting statistics and analyses as well. It seems like it could be a useful tool.

Allison Primack

I think this is a great guide! I asked the members of GovLoop’s LinkedIn Group when you should use a hashtag, and this is what they said:

Samuel DoucetteWhat is a hash tag? 🙂 I’m only half-joking since I have accessed Twitter once in my life. If it’s the # sign, I find it annoying.

Andres AdornoWhen you want to create a trend. At least that’s what I think.

Jarrod CohenHashtags are great for increasing the visibility of your tweet. Be mindful of popular hashtags pertaining to the topic of your tweet and definitely include them! But my advice is one or two hashtags per tweet – otherwise your message gets cluttered and it appears like you’re trying too hard to get heard 🙂

Matt RosenbergOne or two hashtags per tweet should be all that you need. Make sure it’s catchy so other ppl can see it and perhaps use the same tag in their own tweets as well.

Courtney Shelton Hunt

Thanks, Allison – for the positive feedback, for resharing the post, and for sharing the comments from the GovLoop LI group. This post really seems to have resonated with people, I think because it’s a hot topic and there’s very little best practice guidance out there.