Will hashtags work with email?

A few months ago, I suggested that email was missing an important ingredient. Email messages include a setting to indicate the urgency, but nothing to indicate the kind of email it is.

Does it contain an action item? Does it relate to an upcoming meeting? Is it something you really need to know? Or can it be read at your convenience (or not at all)?

I developed a series of four-letter tags for subject lines (like URGT for “Urgent”) that were unlikely to appear in any email written in English—so they could safely be used for filtering.

Today, it hit me. Why go to that much trouble? Why not use hashtags?

So I sent my first email with a hashtag in the subject line:

#ACTION: Your brief bio needed to promote June 27 information overload teleconference

Now none of the well-known authors to whom I sent this are filtering for #ACTION. Probably no one is. Yet.

But you’re also not likely to see “I am asking you to take #action now” in a typical email message. So filters set for hashtags aren’t likely to be fooled by something else.

The big advantage of hashtags—as opposed to a system that an organization might have to “sell” to its employees—is that they consist of real words. Many people have extensive experience with hashtags. There’s no learning curve. And no change-management effort. It should be a lot easier to get a group to agree on a set of hashtags than to convince them to adopt URGT instead of #URGENT.

What was I thinking?

The one non-trivial hurdle is this: The hashtags will work only for the group that decides to embrace them. Although if the group is a 50,000-person corporation, the benefits would be significant.

But to really put a dent in information overload, email hashtags would need to be adopted by nearly everyone.

Is anyone saying that can’t happen?



Filed under Email management, Personal productivity

5 responses to “Will hashtags work with email?

  1. I think using hashtags in email is a BRILLIANT idea! Strategic thinking at it’s finest, but yes, getting others to adopt the use…. IDK… ;))

  2. well, next you will get spam with #urgent #action

    • @Kevin Sexton: Good point. Maybe spammers could use #SPAM or something to help us out.

    • It’s certainly possible (even likely) that spammers would try just what you suggest. Would that make their messages more likely to get past existing spam blockers and junk filters? I doubt it. If I’m wrong, good guys who want to employ hashtags for productive purposes will likely find a way to defeat bad guys who want to misuse them.

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