Hashtags are, in one sense, incredibly popular—and that's also why they're incredibly useless, argues Daniel Victor at the Nieman Journalism Lab. Victor assumes that if you, say, put "#SuperBowl" on your tweets during the Super Bowl, you were hoping to get it in front of more interested eyeballs. But for popular hashtags like that one, "getting any single person’s attention is just short of impossible, like a single Niagara droplet screaming for notice as it shoots down the falls."
During the five-hour game, 3 million #SuperBowl tweets were sent, meaning that, on average, someone would have to search the tag within 1/17 of a second of your post to see it—and even then, they'd have to click from the "Top Tweets" view to the "All" view. But it can't hurt to try, right? Well, sort of. "Using a hashtag does no harm in the same way wood paneling does no harm to your station wagon," Victor argues, "or a misspelled tattoo does no harm to your bicep." They're kind of ugly, and "for every person who stumbles upon your tweet via hashtag, you’re likely turning off many more who are put off by hashtag overuse." Click for the full column. (Read more Nieman Journalism Lab stories.)