Hashtags are used to tag posts. They enable users to perform better Twitter searches and run twitter chats. Despite denigration by Scoble, hashtag popularity appears to be on the rise. As people add more and more Twitter followers, the “noise” level tends to go up and hashtags are a way to sub-divide the stream. (NOTE: a hashtag filter is better than a generic keyword filter because the extra addition of the ‘#’ character shows intention to classify a post whereas otherwise the keyword could be in a post out of context)
Because receivers are starting to filter by hashtags, Tweeters are starting to use them so that their messages will be read by the target audience. Unfortunately, where there is a target audience, there is going to be SPAM. People who are selling products (sometimes completely unrelated to the hashtag) are now adding a variety of hashtags to their messages.
The next evolutionary step in the process is that viewers will soon have the ability to filter both keywords AND people. You will be able to block out that SPAMMER so they no longer show up in your Filter. You will be able to white-list particular people who you do want to get through your filter. Tweetchat has recently added the ability to feature and block particular usernames from a hashtag filtered chat.
If you are interested in finding a hashtag chat, there is a schedule here.
Whereas with email the SPAMMER needs to specifically target you and therefore the SPAM is clearly intentional, with Twitter it just gets broadcasted into the Twitter ether. If you happen to be following the SPAMMER, you see the tweet.
Someone you follow might be putting out some really good posts and some really SPAM-like posts. Since, in Twitter, you decide to follow the person and then get everything they post; some tweets will have higher value to you than others. Some will skirt the line of SPAM and others will go over it (in your eyes). This is not absolute as other followers likely draw a completely different line. Remember, there are plenty of people out there who enjoy watching QVC. If the noise/SPAM to value ratio goes up too high for you, you may eventually unfollow. However, since that takes a purposeful act, many may suffer the noise until it becomes unbearable.
There are some new Twitter apps that are negatively impacting the noise ratio.
- Chat clients where chatters are filtering Twitter messages for a certain hashtag. Their chat messages auto-include that hashtag. eg. TweetChat.com While the chat makes total sense to the participants. Other followers are getting bombarded by frequent often non-sensical messages.
- Games where the game is actually played with Twitter messages. eg. playspymaster.com
I am far from calling out that the sky is falling. There are also plenty of applications positively impacting the noise ratio.
- Tweetdeck is probably the most popular
- Seesmic Desktop is catching up quickly
- It looks there is a new entrant Mixero with similar features and increased usability
I expect the Twitter stream to get more and more noisy. Likely both types of apps will grow significantly.