Let’s Reinvent the #Hashtag

It’s happened to all of us. You pull up Twitter on your phone and are crushed by an avalanche of irrelevant tweets from people who are live tweeting a conference or a TV show you have no interest in.

Twitter knows this is a problem – that’s why it’s testing a “mute” button where you can temporarily unfollow another user, without them knowing. But this is a blunt tool—and unfairly puts all the responsibility on your followers.

I have a better solution—and it involves reinventing the hashtag.

Redesigning the hashtag could improve Twitter's user experience.

Redesigning the hashtag could improve Twitter’s user experience.

When you start a tweet with a user handle, the tweet appears only in the feeds of the other user and people who follow both of you.

Twitter needs to embrace a similar solution for hashtags. It should suppress any tweets that begin with a hashtag from your followers’ feeds.

This solution has two big advantages:

1) You can spare your followers from irrelevant tweets when you want to live-tweet a conference or the season finale of the #Bachelor.

2) You can still share insights or observations that are relevant to most/all of your followers by placing the hashtag anywhere else in the tweet (similar to when you mention another user). Every so often in a conference, there’s a big takeaway that you think would appeal to a broader audience. Go ahead and share it!

We all know that some of Twitter’s best features have been developed by users (e.g., the retweet and the hashtag). So why not this one?

Here’s the best part. Much like the retweet and the hashtag, we don’t have to wait for Twitter to adopt the feature to begin taking advantage of it. Users who support the idea can simply place a hashtag at the beginning of topic/conference/event-specific tweets—thus signaling to their followers that the content of the tweet may not be relevant to them.

This simple change could have a small, but significant impact on user experience on the Twitter platform.

Think the idea has merit? Please spread the word!