Twitter recently revealed that it might be making major changes that would affect the future of the platform: namely getting rid of @-replies and hashtags.

For those who are unfamiliar, @-replies allow users to directly connect with one another, and be notified when they are involved in an interaction. Hashtags connect users by topic and allow the organic reach of posts to be much wider. They are especially useful for events and controversial topics, as Twitter is now a main news source for a large population.

Twitter’s reasoning for making changes to the network makes sense: they want to attract newer users who may be deterred because they are confused by all of the symbols and their purposes. The initial learning curve is steep and it can take time to use the platform to its full potential.

But from my perspective, I think they may have missed the boat on this one.

The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55-64 year age bracket, which may be surprising to most (and even to me). It seems as if this age bracket can understand the @-replies and hashtags, so wouldn’t it make sense that most others would be able to as well? Now, it has not been confirmed which age bracket and user base Twitter is specifically targeting to increase on the platform. However, unless they are actively trying to increase the “senior” user base who may be confused by all the symbols, why change the rules now?

In my opinion, uniqueness on social platforms is what makes them all work so well, for different purposes and goals. Hashtags work great on Twitter, but hurt your brand on Facebook. If Twitter were to get rid of @-replies and hashtags, would they create something new to take its place? Without these functions, Twitter will lose a lot of its connectivity and organic ability to achieve interactions worldwide. While of course you could still conduct a general search to see who else is discussing a particular topic, I feel it will lose its larger impact.   

If Twitter were to remove @-replies and hashtags, social media strategies would need to be adapted. In anticipation of the changes, here’s how you should alter your strategy:

  1. Optimize your Twitter Ads. If you can no longer reach a target audience using hashtags, purchasing ads will be the most successful way to direct your posts at specific groups.
  2. Use better key words.  If you could no longer use #PR, what keywords would your audience be looking for to engage with you? Posts will need to be more strategically crafted so that they come up in search results.
  3. Use Direct Messaging. If you can’t directly reply to someone but still want to engage, direct message them. While a much less popular tool than public replies, this ensures that you still form a relationship and can engage in another way.