Hashtags: The Miley Cyrus of Marketing

I’ll give you one more chance to read this post title. 

Ready? Okay. Hear me out.

Hashtags and Miley Cyrus are now polarizing cultural forces.  They elicit undying loyalty from some and extended eye rolls from others.  You can’t avoid them. They are everywhere  – and no one is really sure why.  While Miley Cyrus simply wants to bestow the gift of twerking upon the American public, hashtags seems to be the go-to method for companies to spark conversation about their products.  Lately, however, I’ve been seeing hashtags in nearly every TV commercial, some of which follow a news story about Miley Cyrus’ antics.  Observe:

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See? I highly doubt that anyone has caught on to these hashtags.  If they have, it might not be as much as the companies hoped. I acknowledge that one of the few exceptions to this is hashtags in Super Bowl commercials  – but that’s because it’s the Super Bowl.

This isn’t to say that hashtags are completely useless (and neither is Miley – because you know that “Wrecking Ball” is your new favorite song).  After all, hashtags are useful for tracking Twitter conversation and seeing how consumers are reacting to marketing efforts.  But this article quite artfully sums up the problem in the omnipresence of hashtags: “[It] isn’t only an eyesore, it’s remarkably lazy. The problem with hashtags lie in their relative ambiguity: there’s no standard for hashtags and no long-running conversation.”  Thus, marketers who want to use hashtags need to do so within a larger context.  Throwing it like a dart into commercials accomplishes little.  It has to be part of a larger marketing effort that will actually get people’s attention.

I haven’t yet determined the larger context in which Miley Cyrus belongs. Some pop culture analyst will do that for me.

Are you sick of hashtags yet?