Most busy professionals don’t have much time to watch TV, but by now, you’ve probably seen a hashtag or two pop up on your TV screen.

Today, hashtags are everywhere. Many television programs and events now include their own hashtags to encourage viewers to talk about shows online. Even advertisers are working the symbol into commercial spots. But the question still remains if this is an effective tactic.

A good example of just how popular hashtags have become outside of Twitter is this year’s Super Bowl. Of the 36 brands that purchased air time, more than half of them used hashtags in their Super Bowl ads. This is a big jump over last year’s game when only five of the 62 commercials had hashtags.

The social media analytics company Sysomos analyzed the reaction to these hashtags on Twitter and discovered that people preferred to tweet about the brand itself rather than the commercial. This means that brands that used their own name as the hashtag performed better than those that didn’t.

For example, Doritos (#doritos) and Calvin Klein (#CalvinKlein) came out on top with 33,323 and 29,381 mentions respectively. The controversial kiss commercial (#TheKiss) by GoDaddy came in third with 16,231 mentions, while its first commercial (#YourBigIdea) fell to the 16th spot with only 801 mentions. Even well-known slogans like Subway’s #FebruAny paled in comparison, returning only 402 mentions.

Of course, timing and audience likely play a big role in the success of a hashtag. Sticking to brand names has worked for some, but other brands — particularly sports teams — have had good luck in the past with creative hashtags. However, even major brands like McDonald’s and Starbucks have run into trouble with hijacked hashtags.

Despite their popularity, we don’t recommend slapping a hashtag on every tweet and advertisement. You must first decide whether a hashtag campaign is right for your brand — does the potential ROI outweigh the risk?

[Via: AllTwitter, Image credit: Alan Levine]