How do consumers use and perceive hashtags?

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

RadiumOne’s latest research has revealed interesting statistics regarding customer perception and usage of hashtags.

Every marketer has to have hashtags drummed into their day-to-day routine, and their correct usage – making sure you neither overuse nor underuse them – is a key factor in making sure as many eyeballs as possible see campaigns. But what do consumers really think?

In the main, they see hashtags as a force for good rather than evil. Of the near 500 users surveyed, 43% see hashtags are useful, compared to 14.7% who see them as annoying.

And the majority of Twitter users incorporate hashtags into their tweets, if the research is anything to go by – 58% said they used hashtags.

Other interesting stats from the research include:

  • 71% say they used hashtags most frequently on a mobile devices, compared to 29% on desktop
  • More than two in five (42%) click on a hashtag to explore its content when they see one, whilst a further 18.3% go straight to that brand or person’s profile
  • The majority of respondents said hashtags were “great for rallying interest around a specific cause”

Perhaps not surprisingly, respondents saw hashtags’ best role as identifying trends. 31% of respondents cited that, with finding brands and products (20.6%), self promotion (19.3%), brand awareness (15.1%) and influencing audience behaviour (14.5%) comprising the top five.

So what should brands and advertisers do? Well, according to the survey’s respondents there’s still an untapped goldmine in the hashtag. Over half (50.6%) of those polled admitted they’d share hashtags far more often if advertisers utilised them more for product promotions and discounts.

Further, 18% said they’d push that promotion on their social networks and follow that brand respectively, creating more eyeballs and more chance of virality.

The overall takeaway from RadiumOne: “Users view hashtags primarily as a form of self-expression and a tool for content discovery.”

Elsewhere, a report from Italian security consultants Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli has revealed that as many as 20 million Twitter accounts are fake.

Of course, this is nothing new – the underground market for Twitter and Facebook likes from bot accounts was there as soon as brands realised the importance of the social networks. Yet, as reported by the New York Times, whilst Facebook bots require a real email address, Twitter requires no such thing – and the captchas offer little resistance.

Despite this, the use of hashtags continues to gain popularity. What’s your experience of using hashtags as a brand? Did it garner more traffic and shareability, or was there little difference?

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