Hashturbation: Let's Talk About #Hashtags

By Kyle Fox

Working in marketing and design, we follow a number of advertising agencies on social media, particularly in Alaska, where we’re based. Recently there’s been an unsettling trend of businesses using hashtags completely inappropriately, and I’m here to draw a line in the sand. If you are an advertising agency using hashtags on social media, you are one of three things:

  1. Irrelevant
  2. Wrong
  3. Right

I’ve heard the reasoning from a number of people that hashtags have been co-opted as a punctuation that denotes sarcasm or emphasis, but here’s the deal—for interaction designers—the people who made hashtags, they have a specific affordance, and it isn’t punctuation.

Correct Usage

Let’s start with the right way to use hashtags.

canada goose A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social network and microblogging services which makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content. Users create and use hashtags by placing the <a title=”Number sign” href=”http://en find here.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_sign”>hash character (or number sign) # in front of a word or unspaced phrase, either in the main text of a message or at the end. Searching for that hashtag will then present each message that has been tagged with it.

canada goose Hashtags are for searching. So when choosing to hashtag something, a good practice is to first ask yourself if you think that someone will want to search for your content. You can see where I’m going with this.

celine bags #catsofinstagram is a great use of hashtags—people want to see cats on the Internet. If you’re an advertising firm and you are linking into a commonly used hashtag, well then good for you.


The rub is that many agencies, in an effort to prove their relevance prove themselves to be irrelevant by misusing this interface affordance. In a painful display of this irrelevance, Toyota just released this gem of a commercial last month.

Anyone else cringe? The hashtag hand motion was made famous by Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon in a skit over a year ago and basketball jerseys cheap that’s when it was relevant. When a firm chooses to use hashtags that simply aren’t going to be searched for, they’ve missed the boat. If your hope is to create a Twitter trend using #weluvourclients—it’s not going to happen. Another tell-tale sign of hashtag misuse is when only your employees or clients mentioned like the post. I’m going to call that hashturbation.

Hashturbation | [hash-ter-bey-shuh n]

  1. the creation and use of a hashtag which no one else will enjoy

Just Plain Wrong

“But wait!” a tiny fraction of the population exclaims. “The hashtag has been appropriated as an additive to written communication on social media!”

“Wrong,” I say.

celine handbags The hashtag has been appropriated by a group of individuals who like tacking on relevant or irrelevant words at the end of complete sentences. I dare you to cheap jerseys search for #music and see if you get what you are looking for on Instagram.

“A hashtag can indicate sarcasm!” a minority of you will point out.

“True,” I say.

/s, *sarcasm or palpable sarcasm can all be used to denote sarcasm equally as well and are probably used just as frequently. But just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. Does anyone else remember telling a friend in elementary school something and then snidely saying “not”. Consider the usage of a hashtag as an aside or for sarcasm the digital version of that.

In Summary

Use hashtags when you are tapping into a trending topic or are actually working on building a searchable social media database of content. Anything else is hashturbation and your followers will become blind to your social posts.