Hashtags in Subject Lines: To Use or Not to Use

Casey BartoI’m a fan of the hashtag. It lets me find tweets that I know will interest me (like how a baseball game is progressing) and makes it easy for me follow a webinar or chat.
What I’m not so sure of is the use of hashtags outside the social setting. Case in point: I recently received an email with the subject line: “Has Your Brand Gone Viral? #Winning #Digital #Strategy”
I have a few problems with this subject line, first of which is the number of hashtags used. According to Twitter best practices, you’re not supposed to use more than two hashtags per tweet. This subject line had three. Add to that the fact the hashtagged words aren’t really keywords specific to the email contents, which left me scratching my head. (Just do a search for the hashtagged words on Twitter and you’ll find a lot of non-specific results.) A better idea would have been to create a hashtag specific to the content in the email.

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To get more insight into the idea of using hashtags in an email subject line, I turned to our experts here at Knotice. One point was clear: always consider the message. Also keep in mind your brand’s personality. But a brand that’s not very active on Twitter, for example, or whose audience is not very social-media savvy probably should avoid the hashtag.

And just because hashtags are popular doesn’t mean you should put them in your subject lines, as Dutch points out:

“If your campaign employs significant Twitter interaction or has a call-to-action that requires Twitter, by all means, use the hashtag. If not, consider the hashtag carefully as you may be adding confusion to your message or, worse, prompting your audience to interact with Twitter instead of your campaign. #mytwocents #toomanyhashtags”

Sarah, a graphic designer here at Knotice, shares the same sentiment:

“Although recognizable to users of certain social media, if you’re looking from a purely functional aspect, I think it’s a waste of time. Hashtags are contemporarily used in the indexing of information in the semantic web, and as far as I know, no email clients support them…. If we’re looking for something gimmicky, then by all means, use hashtags. But if we want something that could potentially be functionally useful in our spam rating and inbox hits, I think we should start looking into using Schema to mark up our emails LONG before we try using something even more unlikely to be recognized by search engines and indexes like hashtags.”

Patti, our director of marketing, had this to say: “The purpose of the subject line is to help your message stand out in the inbox and get people to open. If using a hashtag helps you get the attention of your audience, it’s a good thing. If your audience is social savvy and appreciate that sort of tone, then try it – test and see. If you’re looking for people to follow you, your event or your brand for some reason, then using a hashtag in a subject line may work tp compliment that call to action. It kind of reminds me of the use of symbols. Don’t overuse it, keep it relevant to the email content, and test first see if it actually creates a lift. Clever doesn’t always equate to clicks.”

What do you think? Have you used hashtags outside of social media? Have you received an email with a hashtag in the subject line? Let us know below!

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