Once upon a time, the # sign was commonly recognized in the U.S.A. as the pound sign. When you use the symbol before numbers, it is read as “number” as in #2 pencil. But when you use the symbol after a number, it is read as pounds to denote an object’s weight as in 5#—hence why we called it the pound sign.
When we made a call, a pre-recorded voice prompted us to type in a numeric code followed by the pound sign. Today, when you dial into a conference line, it prompts your numeric code to be followed by the pound or hash sign.
But that’s not because of Twitter. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, the # sign is called the hash. I think it’s also important to note that this symbol is never used in these countries to denote weight or currency.
The term hashtag for the # sign is a mashup of hash (one name for the symbol) and tag (a way to categorize a word or phrase on the social media platform).
And it’s dominated the way we think of microblogging.
Everyone’s still on the hashtag bandwagon. Throw a bunch in your tweets! Stalk your trending hashtags feed! Wear hashtags on your shirt!
But use hashtags in your Twitter bio? That’s where I draw the line.
Surprisingly, many marketers and social media-ites still advocate that you use hashtags in your Twitter bio. If they understood how Twitter’s search algorithm worked (and how we tweeters use Twitter), they’d be whistling a different tune.
Meet the Twitter Search Engine
The argument for using hashtags in your Twitter bio is so that potential followers can find you on Twitter. But the argument doesn’t understand how the Twitter search engine works.
You can try this yourself. Search for any term or phrase without the hashtag in the search bar on Twitter. I searched for the term “writing.”
First, you see top stories related to your search. Then you see the top Twitter users within your searched term before a rollout of relevant tweets using the phrase. Notice how your phrase is bolded within the relevant tweets either with or without the hashtag.
If you scroll back up to People, chances are the top Twitter accounts for your searched term do not have a hashtag sign in their Twitter bio. But let’s explore further. Click on either View all under People or click People in the top header.
Now you see a feed of all Twitter accounts relevant to your searched term. Continue to scroll down the page until you find a Twitter bio that uses your searched term as a hashtag.
You scrolled for some time, didn’t you?
Yes, I know your searched term didn’t include the hashtag, so now let’s search your searched term with a hashtag. For me, I searched #writing.
You’ll now notice in your search results that the shown tweets are different. Only tweets that use the # handle with your searched term show.
But the top Twitter accounts hasn’t changed. The top accounts are the same people who do not use the hashtag in their Twitter bio. So let’s look at all the Twitter accounts relevant to your searched term again.
That’s how the Twitter search algorithm works. Searching with a hashtag is designed for searching tweets, not Twitter bios. The hashtag symbol is ignored when you search Twitter bios with your searched term.
Still think adding hashtags to your Twitter bio makes your profile more searchable? I didn’t think so.
If you’re still not convinced, I have another reason why you should avoid hashtags in your Twitter bio.
Say Goodbye to Potential Followers
Here’s a scenario. A potential follower has landed on your Twitter profile, whether it’s because you recently followed their account or because they ❤️ your tweets.
First thing the potential follower reads is your Twitter bio (or maybe that’s just me). “Experts” will tell you that plugging in key hashtags in your Twitter bio shows how relevant you are to your potential follower.
These experts don’t understand how we use Twitter.
Say you do have a hashtag in your Twitter bio that’s relevant to your potential follower. They want to learn more about it or are curious about the conversation happening there, so they click on the hashtag (because all hashtags are search links to the hashtag feed).
They just left your Twitter profile.
This hashtag is so relevant to the potential follower that they’re now not following you because they are too busy reading tweets by users that are not you.
Don’t give your potential follower a reason to leave your Twitter profile. Hashtags in your Twitter bio do just that.
Instead, use relevant terms in your Twitter bio without the hashtags. Need an example? Here’s my Twitter bio.
The Only Time to Use Hashtags in Your Twitter Bio
There is only one instance where adding a hashtag in your Twitter bio makes sense. And that’s how you answer this question: Do you have a branded hashtag?
Whether for your brand or for a marketing campaign, your Twitter bio is the perfect spot to highlight a branded hashtag.
Because Twitter users like things that click, they’ll tap on your branded hashtag to see what’s happening there. Maybe it’ll inspire them to tweet it. Maybe it’ll inspire them to follow through on the handle’s call to action.
You’ll probably see a slump in new Twitter followers. If it’s more strategic to encourage Twitter users to engage within the branded hashtag, this won’t bother you too much.