The [not so] Subtle Art of Tagging

Was tag a game you remember playing as a child? It’s one of the games I fondly remember — maybe it because it was an all-play and didn’t require the choosing of teams. It was a game that you could play with any size group and most any place.

We usually played in somebody’s yard. And in the small southern town where I grew up, everybody had a yard. So Tag was a game we played a lot.

Recently, I realized that while the times have changed and the rules have evolved, we’ve modernized and socialized the game of tag. Today’s “adulting” version of tag occurs millions of times every day. You’ve seen, you’ve been tagged, and you’ve probably tagged others — especially if you use some version of social media.

Many people have elevated it — tagging — to an art form. Many others are still trying to figure it out and how to play, what the rules of the game are, while massive numbers of people are wanting to get untagged.

Let’s talk about tagging. My hope is to give you a fresh vision of what artful tagging makes possible and how you too can use the power of a tag for good. And yes, I hope through this post inspires some people to tag less or at least tag more strategically.

Not all tags are equal.

Some are incredibly potent, others, well, they are incredibly annoying.

At the end of last year, in some moments of reflection, I realized that many of the most amazing “things” that happened in my business and life over the past year happened as a result of a Tag. Let me explain and in the process invite you into an exploration of the Subtle Art of Tagging using real-life examples and how I’ve benefitted.

The You Should Meet Tag

Almost seven months ago to the date of this writing, I had an early morning inspiration. Just two days earlier I had the idea of launching a gratitude challenge. I vividly remember the morning two days later when, out of nowhere an idea arrived;

There is an artist who will create original artwork for this gratitude challenge you’re developing.

Startled, I thought, what a brilliant idea it is to include artwork as part of The Gratitude Challenge. Just as suddenly I realized the brilliance of the idea, I realized I didn’t know any artists to ask. And then, just as suddenly and out-of-nowhere as the idea had come, so did the answer.

Post a tweet and see what happens.

And a minute or two later, I composed this Tweet. And posted it. Then, I returned to the work at hand and forgot all about it.

A few hours later, my good friend from the UK, Garry Turner, retweeted my inquiry and tagged 3 people in his tweet. All three responded. The first to reply mentioned that she was a fine artist and this wasn’t really her medium. The second to respond, expressed interest, but also mentioned a major project launching at about the same time. Then, a third person replied and said, “I’d be interested to know more”.

That person is Cat Hase whom I now affectionately refer to as the artist-in-residence for The Gratitude Challenge. Cat has become a great friend and an amazing collaborator.

And it all started with a tag. Honestly, it is doubtful the connection would have ever happened without a tag.

Thanks, Garry Turner for seeing my request and the simple act of tagging a few people thinking — maybe you should get to know each other.

Actually, there are dozens of other times I’ve been tagged where someone I know knows someone I need to know… and they apply the tag saying “You two should meet.”

Here’s my favorite “You two should meet tag story” from 2019 because this tag —one that was totally unsolicited and turned out to be one of the most impactful tags and one that created worldwide waves and ripples that continue to spread.

Back in April of 2019, Maryann Kerr made a simple post on LinkedIn that tagged two people — Steve Foran and me. Her post was something to the effect of, “Two people who have both helped me with my practice of gratitude.”

That simple act of a tag opened the door for Steve and me to connect. We connected on LinkedIn. Steve asked if he could send me a copy of his book…and as they say, the rest is history. Or in this case, history that is still in the making. Not only did Steve and I meet, but we’ve become friends and collaborators in the aforementioned amazing project we call The Gratitude Challenge.

At the time of this writing, we just finished hosting our sixth global Gratitude Challenge and have had over 1,700 people from 50 countries join us to explore and express gratitude.

And once again, it started with a tag. A selfless act done to introduce and connect people.

The Shout Out Tag

Here’s a recent example of this worth highlighting. It happened on January 2, 2020. I was up early that day and one of the first things I saw on social media (at 4:00 am) was an invitation to connect from Osasu Arigbe. Here’s her message:

I clicked the link to her post where I read this…

What’s interesting about this connection and correspondence was that four times in the 24 hours leading up to our connecting, I had an impression, “You should host a gratitude challenge this month.” Each time, I simply noted it and thought, “Maybe we should.”

Osasu’s post provided the confirmation that “Yes, you should.” So we did.

Then another one of my favorite tags is the …

Have You Seen This? Tag

A few weeks back, Jane Adshead-Grant, someone else I met because of a Garry Turner tag who has since become a good friend, tagged me in a post about an HBR article on the Business Value of Belonging.

I read the article and then did what I so often do — looked up the author on LinkedIn and reached out to Gabriella Kellerman for an introduction and invitation. That tag —has led to a collaboration that is currently in the works for Gabriella to join me on an upcoming episode of the Higher Purpose Podcast to explore their research into Belonging, Mattering, Meaning and Purpose.

Hardly a week goes by without me being tagged by someone asking, Have you seen this?  More often than not, I haven’t seen the article, post, or resource they are sharing and this tag helps me curate amazing content.

And once again, it started with a tag.

Then there’s The Spotlight Tag. You know the ones where someone gives you a shoutout and shines the spotlight on you…and you had no idea it was coming. A most vivid example of this happened just a few days ago.

It was a Friday afternoon —shortly after I had hosted a weekly session of the HumansFirst Hangout —that yearlong journey is a topic for another whole post about the power of connection and conversation. Suffice it to say that Melissa Hughes recently called it an oxytocin extravaganza.

I digress. The Hangout happened and I returned to work on a project. Some time later, I a break and perused my LinkedIn feed to find that I had been tagged in a post. Not just any post, a post so heartwarming that it moved me to tears. A post that honestly, made me a bit uncomfortable because it was a post about me and put me in the spotlight. My dear friend, Kimberly Davis used The Spotlight Tag to share her experience of the Hangout and shine a light on others who she called Difference-Makers.

What a selfless way to use tags and social media — to shine a spotlight on others and publicly say thanks or commend someone for an act of kindness.

The Spotlight Tag is a simple, yet powerful way to strengthen bonds and build social capital and connection. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.

There is another kind of tag that I must mention. I saved it for last as it includes what some consider the dark side or the underbelly of tagging. I’ll admit, it’s my least favorite tag. And on some days, it seems on the verge of becoming a new pet peeve. This tag might be the most prevalent form of tagging at the moment. What shall we call it?

It combines elements of the Spotlight, Share, and Shout-out tags with a little twist.  It happens when someone tags you in a post in hopes that you will see them, find something share-worthy in their post and shine the spotlight on them, their content or cause.

It’s a fine balance that many of us seek to navigate and I don’t want to shame anyone — because many of us (yes, us) have innocently swallowed and followed bad advice in our quest to do good work and make a difference in the world.

Let’s call it Tag and Drag as that is what it attempts to do. To tag people, especially people who have some kind of “following” or a perceived measure of social influence and attract attention to your post or whatever it is you are promoting. I could call it the See Me Tag because oftentimes, that’s how it feels to me. People tagging others solely for the benefit of being seen and once seen, hoping you will share and shine the spotlight on them.

What I call the Tag and Drag must be a core tactic in many “How To Master Social Media” courses. Of course, these content creators would create some sort of euphemistic label for this activity. At the core, the advice is to find influencers and tag them in your post to either drag them into your feed via a comment or sharing or simply ride their drift and hope enough people who follow them see them somehow attached to your feed or content and follow along.

It’s a fine line, a bit of a tightrope to walk and at times challenging to manage. Before you tag dozens of people in your next post, why not pause and ask, “Am I tagging others to serve them or to sell me?”

Tagging is an art. And like all art, it requires some experimentation and practice.

If you are looking to restore the social to social media, using tags is a powerful practice and a wonderful way to enrich relationships. Give these tags a try and see what happens. Who do you know that needs to know someone else you know? Tag them and make that introduction.

✅ Who has helped you on your journey? Give them a shoutout via a tag as Osasu did. For us, it opened the door to a relationship and collaboration on a project.

✅ Did you stumble on a helpful resource that you think will be useful to a peer? Tag them in a post and share it. I bet they will appreciate it.

✅ Who do you want to shine the spotlight on to express gratitude for the way they show up and shine in the world? Tag them and make their day.

Got another creative way you use tags to create community? Share it in a comment below. I’m always interested in new ways to strengthen bonds and expand relationships.


Kevin Monroe
Kevin Monroe
Kevin Monroe helps people flourish on the road less traveled in business, leadership, and life so they make their dent in the universe. Since he was a teenager, he has usually chosen roads less traveled which usually involve going against the grain and seeking to go with the flow. All in hopes of making the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. His unique contribution to the world is creating environments, hosting encounters, and crafting experiences where people are inspired, equipped, and encouraged to live, love, and lead in extraordinary ways. He hosts a variety of events and experiences designed to do just that including; the Higher Purpose Podcast, The Gratitude Challenge, This ExtraOrdinary Life, and most recently, The League of Extraordinary Difference Makers. Kevin holds a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University and an undergraduate degree in theology from Mercer University. He lives in Woodstock, GA with his lovely wife, Gwen. They are the parents of two adult children and one precocious granddaughter, Emma.

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  1. Oh Kevin, THANK YOU for this piece! The “See Me Tag” has become the bane of my Linkedin existence and has had a huge impact on my desire to engage. The other reasons lift me up and that one is like a big anchor that leaves me drowning. For me, given that all of my work is about authenticity, whenever obligation enters into the picture it doesn’t feel authentic. So I don’t tag unless it’s for the top three reasons you mentioned (and even then, not very often). My filter for action is that if it’s a gift to someone or I’m hoping to make a positive impact on someone, then it’s right. But if it’s for me – for attention or likes for me, then it’s self-serving. It may not be a wise business decision, but it’s what feels right for my insides.

    • I’m with you on that, Kimberly. The “See Me Tags” make me crazy. However, as you pointed out, the positive types of tags make it worthwhile. Case in point, today, we released the episode of the Higher Purpose Podcast that is the direct result of the “Have You Seen This Tag” example shared above. Listening to that episode on belonging reminded me it would not have happened had not Jane Adshead-Grant tagged me in the post and called that amazing work to my attention. The proper use of tagging is powerful!

  2. Good morning Kevin,
    I thank you for this very informative article on the art of tagging.
    I find it more so helpful as it discusses tagging people… this one I struggle with.
    Topic tagging I have no real problem with.
    It’s the people tagging. I’m not a big tagger of people as I never want to offend, hurt feelings by forgetting them, bother people, and sometimes it is very time consuming.
    I am tagged a lot and the hard part is trying to keep up. I’m getting tag whiplash at times. I’m scaling back I’m sure as I just cannot reply to all who tag me, especially when I do not see notifications (that’s another issue). I do see the power of tagging as you have so nicely set out in this well articulated article. I really like the tag and drag term as it completely describes these kind of tag moments.
    I am part of the generation that probably started using social media as a “grown up” It’s like starting a new job where you learn as you grow. The more experience and exposure you have, the better you get. The problem with this was that there was no leadership or direction, and no pay except for the emotional reflections of reading words from others you know. At times too we are living in real life and as you mention, forget about it after sending.
    It’s all different now. Raising children in this era of digital expression I realized the critical power of what was going on. I realized every send, reply, comment and post was all a publish. Safety as well became a concern. I started to pay attention to where the future was going. I had to shake off the idea that it didn’t affect me. I also knew that in order to stay in touch with people, I needed to know where they were and how best to reach them. The home phone was not getting used and is dying off. The new knock on the door now is in the form of a digital knock via tagging.
    Some we want, others we wish we never opened the door. And not to mention tagjail for going over your limit etc.
    Ok, That being said and fast forward, I am now very active. I am learning constantly. I have only really focused on the Linkedin platform and will get to the others. My strategy is in the making. We evolve and hopefully for the better.
    The whole tagging thing is still a struggle for me when it comes to mentioning people, topics are not a problem.
    Oh and one more thing….is there an easier way to save a group of like minded tag groups so we do not have to type each name… i need a time saver here…?
    Sorry for all the writing, I’m still finding my way around.
    I really value this article and thank Dennis for steering me here as I have mentioned my struggles to him.
    Thank you very much Kevin. Have a great day

    • Hello, Paula. I am delighted that the post was informative. I thought it important to illustrate with real-life examples and also to shine the spotlight on others who are thoughtful and purposeful in their use of tags and not just say, “Look at me…” As the article states, I have benefitted greatly from the way I’ve engaged with social media.

      Like you, I embraced social media as an adult and a business professional. I am most active on LinkedIn and Twitter. Tagging is time-consuming. I do not know of a hack to save a group — if there is one, I want to know it as I host a weekly #HumansFirst Hangout and LinkedIn is the only way we promote the gathering, so I tediously type a bunch of names of those who are regulars or have asked to join. I try not to tag and drag — although I have in the past (before I saw the light.).

      Let’s get better together and help others do the same and use social media for difference-making.