The Economist: we love you. We’ve been subscribers for over 10 years now. We have the iPhone app, and the iPad app, which we love. And we follow you on Tumblr — your Tumblr is great by the way! — and on Facebook and, of course, we follow you on Twitter. We want to be like you when we grow up.
We love you, The Economist. Which is why we have to stage this intervention.
You’re embarrassing yourself.
Something needs to be said about your Twitter account, and it’s this: too many hashtags kill the hashtag.
Does a link to an article about medical tourism in the Persian Gulf need to come with the following hashtags: “#economist #mideast #persian #gulf #medicine”? Does an article about US economic policy need to come with the hashtags “#economist #obama #clinton #summers #economic #money #taxes”?
The short — and correct — answer is: no.
Hashtags are used to pull together items on a similar topic, and they have their uses. For example, a very specific topic, a hashtag that’s popular in use (like, say, #followfriday) or a live event. A useful hashtag every once in a while is all well and good. Hashtags as meta-commentary can be fun, and show personality.
However, the odds that someone is searching Twitter for “#persian” right now, and is going to click a story about medical tourism? Zero.
But even if this flood of hashtags brings you a handful of marginal clicks (and we honestly, honestly doubt it), on net, it’s still not worth eroding your goodwill with people who are actual fans of your brand, i.e. the people who actually follow you on Twitter. When used like this, hashtags are basically spam, and you’re inflicting spam on precisely the people who are passionate about your brand, by definition, since they chose to follow you.
These are precisely the people who are most likely to retweet you, to read and share your articles, to interact — which is precisely how you increase your brand equity and readership, which we assume is the goal of the Twitter account in the first place.
It’s not just rude. It’s bad marketing.
Phew. Had to get that off our chest. The Economist, we love you, and always will.
P.S.: It’s “environment”, not “enviornment.”