The science behind the perfect Twitter hashtag

Monday, 4 May 2015

Hashtags are now a mainstream phenomenon, used by consumers, brands and especially TV shows looking to curate and share key moments on and off the Twitter platform. According to Measured Reaction, 73 percent of primetime programs across 10 broadcast and cable networks leveraged an in-program social call to action over Q1- Q2 in 2014, the vast majority of which took the form of a hashtag.

Hashtags make it easy to find and engage with stars and other fans in real time. Given the important function they now serve in facilitating Twitter TV conversation, their composition is key.

To understand more about the science behind the optimal Twitter hashtag for reality TV programs, our team sifted through a half-season’s worth of content: more than 350 hashtags across eight primetime reality shows in the U.S. from January to July 2014. The pro tips we unpacked from the research are rather straightforward, but the benefits are substantial (and statistically significant).

A few different types of hashtags are consistently picked up by viewers at a higher rate than average when shown on screen, indicating that certain formats have stronger potential to rally audiences behind individual hashtags and amplify key moments. The common denominator is that they can all be easily connected back to the reality show.

Here are the hashtag composition tactics that drove significantly higher levels of engagement among viewers:

  • Include show name: This simple best practice cannot be overlooked - we have seen Tweets per minute increase substantially when the show name is included.
  • Use a cast or guest name with “Team:” Employing #teamXYZ hashtags (where XYZ is a cast/guest/participant) drives Tweets per minute, while hashtags including names without “team” actually generate less buzz than average.
  • Describe a moment in 15-17 characters: A pithy hashtag that still contains enough information to convey a moment can increase the momentum around a conversation - sometimes too-short acronyms are harder to adopt.

The science behind the perfect Twitter hashtag

(click on image for larger photo)

Methodology: For this study, we examined more than 350 unique hashtags among eight reality TV shows in the U.S. Hashtags that fell within the top 50 percent of telecast hashtags, ranked by maximum Tweets per minute, were determined to be above average. Statistical significance was determined using the Wilcoxon statistical test. Shows included: “American Idol” (@Americanidol); “The Voice” (@NBCTheVoice); “MasterChef” (@MASTERCHEFonFOX); America’s Got Talent (@nbcagt); “Dancing With the Stars” (@DancingABC); “So You Think You Can Dance” (@official_sytycd); “American Ninja Warrior” (@ninjawarrior) and “Survivor” (@Survivor_Tweet).