The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.
As a pandemic ravages the globe and the economy plummets like Dan Cortese in spandex shorts and a bungee cord, we are all desperately looking for some form of stability and normalcy.
Luckily, you, a chronically online person, do not have to look far to find this tiny shred of pre-COVID-19 life that grounds us back in our base humanity. Just fire up Twitter before 10 a.m. and check the trending topics — chances are you will see the most banal and useless hashtags trend each morning: #MotivationMonday, #ThursdayThoughts, #FridayFeeling.
Despite the news, these meaningless growth hack hashtags manage to stay consistently at the top of Twitter’s trending topics. #MotivationMonday may be the one enduring institution we have — unkillable, like a cockroach after a nuclear holocaust.
These days-of-the-week hashtags have a few layers. The first is straightforward: #MondayMotivation is a photo or aphorism that might inspire you to get out there and tackle your week. A UFC athlete posting about his workout, for example. Motivating!
The next layer is brand accounts or other types of institutions that want to maintain an active Twitter presence, but don’t have important things to tweet every day. Take, for instance, the Indiana University football team, which would have bupkes going on right now even without the pandemic, tweeting out an old clip of the coach giving a motivational speech.
Then there are the shameless growth hackers, who attach the hashtag to irrelevant tweets simply in hopes they will reach more people. Like Tom Hall, whose Twitter bio reads “Premier Twitter Master to CEOs, Entertainers, Influencers & Thought Leaders; We Build Strategic Twitter Followings.” He boasts over 608K followers, but he follows 598K himself. His #MondayMotivation is a GIF of a leopard, which he has also hashtagged #caturday. (Tradition dictates Caturday is Saturday, because, you know…it rhymes.)
Hall is a master of the daily hashtags. He often does about three per day, typically random viral-ish GIFs or videos, like a baseball highlight or an animal clip. “I recommend the use of ‘daily’ hashtags earlier in the day when a trending for the day hasn’t been strongly set,” Hall told BuzzFeed News. “We have seen a steady 10% to 15% increase in an individual tweet's numbers when they are used. They are particularly useful for attracting new eyes to an account. During the coronavirus this number has jumped to nearly 20%.”
A rep for Twitter said that daily active users are up 8% since Q4, which may account for some of the increase Hall has seen. Most interestingly, the Twitter spokesperson said that DMs were up 30% since March 6.
This is not to say that everyone who uses these hashtags is a craven growth hacker, just posting chum to get followers.
Journalist and author Mark Rees, who has written about paranormal activity in Wales, told BuzzFeed News that he often participates in daily hashtags, but also other more niche ones where he posts informative content on topics where he is a subject matter expert. “There are also some really good specialist hashtags as well, and #FolkloreThursday is a particular favorite,” Rees told BuzzFeed News. “It's virus-free, and every week is a different feel-good topic — this week it's life, light, and renewal. Others include #ShakespeareSunday and #FairyTaleTuesday.”
Rees said he does find that using days-of-the-week hashtags can help his tweets reach a broader audience, but “that doesn't necessarily mean more interaction though — they still have to be good tweets.”
@Veganella, a vegan food blogger, readily admits she uses these hashtags to reach a broader audience. “I use the daily hashtags to gain tweet views on important messages,” she told BuzzFeed News. For example, she used #TuesdayThoughts to tweet a graphic image of a dead pig killed for meat.
That she’s willing to bend the rules on the true relevance of the hashtag isn’t totally surprising, if you consider she also tagged a video of mushroom pasta with #COVID-19.
According to Twitter spokesperson Aly Pavela, there has been no recent uptick in the use of these daily hashtags. However, the platform is planning on refining one aspect — differentiating them from tweets about the pandemic. These daily hashtag trends are often used at the same time as COVID-19 hashtags or even in tweets about the pandemic, so sometimes they get labeled in the Trends module as COVID-19 related, which is confusing. In a follow-up, Pavela told BuzzFeed News the COVID-19 label had been removed from Trending because it was leading to confusion.
As most of us are told to stay at home, not seeing friends or colleagues, or much of anyone, Twitter feels like a vital tether to the Real World — or at least other humans. At its best, Twitter is a crucial source of breaking information (at its worst, breeding ground for misinformation or half-baked information), as well as a joyful place for humor, or a way to connect on an emotional level to other humans. More than one friend has told me they have cried upon reading a Twitter thread in the last few weeks. Twitter has made valiant efforts over the last three years to clean up the swamp of harassment and hate that defined it in 2016, and in many ways no longer resembles the free-for-all of shit it once was (Double the characters! Hearts instead of stars!).
And yet, these mundane and useless daily hashtags, which have no news or entertainment value, have thrived on New Twitter. It’s almost a comfort to know that no matter how much you may think “everyone” on Twitter is talking about some topic, way more people are using some dumbshit #ThursdayThoughts hashtag in a sad quest to eke out another follower or two. Now THAT’s a #FridayThought.