Twitter hashtags: cooked up pulse

The list of trending hashtags on Twitter is meant to be reflect what the Twitterati (or the world at large) is talking about. Very often events which create a buzz in real life are reflected on Twitter too: live sports or entertainment events, natural disasters, big political events come to mind. So when we see trends of such on Twitter it seems natural, real and a true reflection of what is occupying the hearts & minds of people. During such moments Twitter seems like a magical tool which captures real-time sentiments and news like no other platform, making it endearing, addictive.

However for the past 2-3 years, hashtag trends have been gamed by social media agencies representing brands, media houses and political parties, ‘armies’ belonging to one political affiliation, film star fan club or the other, contest and event ‘trenders’ and sundry such. The result: you can spot such paid to trend hashtags from a mile away.

The easy way out is to ignore hashtag trends completely but our vicarious human nature is inclined to take a peek at what’s going around. More often than not I laugh at the silliness of the trends but that’s only a superficial reaction. Deep down it is diluting the credibility of the platform itself as one which captures real sentiments, real-time. It is presenting two contrasting brand personas when people are rallying together to help flood victims (whose effect is apparent in real life) using hashtags while the top five trends are moronic political hashtags eulogising one party or deriding someone one else. One knows for sure those cannot be the hot topics of the day occupying people’s mind space.

A hashtag is a useful tool, no doubt rallying around tweets around a topic. When real, it indicates the pulse of the audience. But when the pulse is ‘cooked’ and obviously so it dilutes the core brand proposition. Twitter already suffers from a dual personality in my view – this only adds to it.

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