Hashtags on Facebook? There Goes The #Neighborhood!

Last month, Facebook announced that status updates can now include hashtags that you can click on and search for.  Of course, folks have been using hashtags in other places for ages, sticking them in their posts as a way to summarize and describe their thoughts in one or a few words. Hashtags are a great way for users to track conversations on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Google +, so it’s only natural for them to be on Facebook now too; even though Facebook is a little late to the #party.  Today we’re going to talk about what hashtags are (because we know some of you out there are scratching your heads right now), but we’ll also talk about how brands are using them and how you can too!  #LetsTalkHashtag!

GLAD WORKS, what’s a hashtag?

We’re so glad you asked!  A hashtag is a word or phrase with a # in front of it. Any combination of characters led by a hash symbol is a hashtag.  Hashtags are useful because messages can be tagged and conversations can be tracked through them.  So, for example, if you used #SummerFunRI to start a discussion about fun stuff to do in Rhode Island this summer, people looking for that kind of thing would search for #SummerFunRI to view or join the conversation.  Hashtags have all sorts of uses ranging from advertisements and promotions to talking about current events.

Hashtags on Facebook turn topics and phrases into links you can click on in your posts on either your personal timeline or brand page.  When someone clicks a hashtag, they’ll see a feed of posts that include it.  They’ll also see some hashtags that are related to it at the top.  Hashtags are searchable in the bar at the top of any page on Facebook. 

Facebook Hashtags

How do I use hashtags to promote my business?

Marketers are already all over this looking for ways to use hashtags to their highest potential.  We have already seen Starbucks’ using the hashtag  #strawsome where fans can tag fun pictures of drinks they created with fun straw art.  Other companies are using them to designate a special event or date.  Some are using them to rally support for a cause.  Use your imagination and you’ll certainly come up with a creative use for them!

Tips for getting started

Keep in mind that not everyone has hashtag capability yet, but you can certainly start  putting them in your public Facebook posts on your profile or page.  Everyone who does have the feature will be able to see your hashtags as clickable links.

1. Make them stand out: Try to create hashtags that will stand out and that aren’t too general.  A hashtag like #seminar isn’t specific enough and won’t do much to inspire a conversation about the special seminar you’re giving.  A better hashtag would be something like #GWSeminar2013.  That way, it won’t get lost in the hashtag sea.

2. Help them get seen: Promote your hashtags by sticking them wherever you can.  Put them on your website, all of your social media channels, add them to your email signature and your marketing materials.  If you use your hashtag consistently in a variety of places, people will recognize them and it will trigger a buzz. 

3. Find a way to motivate: Make sure you give users a reason to share your hashtag.  It could be anything from a contest, an event, a discussion, or a charitable cause. Think of a hashtag as a conversation starter and then start a conversation with it!

4. Control yourself: Hashtags have a tendency to get out of control.  Once you’re in the habit of thinking of them, you start coming up with a bunch and become tempted to use them all in the same post. Don’t. The limit is only one or two per post.  Anything more could be overwhelming and confusing for folks.  Write them down and use them another time.  #Andforgoodnesssakedontmakethemtoolongortheyllbetoohardtoread.

Most of what we have suggested here about hashtags can be applied to any social media platform that uses them.  If you’re going to experiment with them, use this as a guide but remember to be creative and have some fun with it!

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