Facebook recently unveiled its new hashtag feature and I have to admit that at first, I was less than excited. Facebook makes so many changes and my first reaction was #meh #TooLittleTooLate. I was not the only one who felt this way.
But as I watched the roll-out unfold and found out just exactly what hashtags can do, I became more enthusiastic.
As I read some blog posts of other experts including Mari Smith, Kim Garst and Shirley Wilson, I began to see the value. Upon doing some experimenting for myself, I’m now sold on the fact that hashtags can be an asset for business owners of all kinds.
What is a #hashtag?
Hashtags are simply words preceded by the # sign. If more than one word is used, then there is no space between the words.
There are serious, searchable hashtags such as #smallbiz or #caregiving and then there are those that are just used for fun such as #HashtagsAreDrivingMeCRAZY! which was a blog post I wrote last year.
The credit for the first use of Hashtags goes to Chris Messina who first used one on Twitter in 2007. Later on, Twitter adopted their use as a search feature and they quickly caught on not only with Twitter but with Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr and Pinterest. *Pinterest actually deleted the feature for awhile but it was quickly brought back.
Is Facebook late to the #hashtag game?
BUT… because of the features that Facebook has made available for use with their hashtags, they have almost made up for that.
In simple form, here are the reasons you should be using hashtags on Facebook:
~ They are clickable! When you see a hashtag that is of interest to you (in my case, let’s say #SocialMedia), you can click on it, find relevant information AND find potential people, pages and groups to connect with. If you are using a hashtag in your business, there are multiple uses. One way is to hashtag a series of tips for your industry niche.
For instance, in my own business, I’ve created some graphics with social media tips on them, hashtagged them with #DIYSocialMedia Tip so that when anyone clicks on the hashtag link, they will find several of these tips in one spot, all of them being credited to my Facebook page. (Bonus: I can easily find them again myself!)
But here’s the game changer, any hashtag that you use on other platforms that are connected to your Facebook page will be pulled into the search results. That’s huge!
~ You can perform a hashtag search on the Facebook toolbar, as well.
~ They are retroactively searchable. Even though hashtags have not been an active feature on Facebook, some people have just naturally carried them over from other platforms. So if you have been using hashtags on Facebook, those posts can be found in the search feature.
~ Every hashtag has a unique URL. For instance http://facebook.com/hashtag/organicgardening GASP! This means that you can drive traffic from other sites by using the URL in your blog posts, Tweets, stumbles, etc. You could potentially present a whole combination of information sources in one link.
~ Facebook users are able to see what consumers are chatting about in real time without being considered a creeper. This is great information for gathering consumer needs, pain points, frustrations, etc.
~ Hashtags can be used in groups. So, for instance, if you are involved in a group with a promotion day, each person can hashtag their post with #PromoFriday and then the promotions are easily retrievable.
~ They can be incorporated into Facebook ads or promoted posts (and you will probably see sponsored hashtags in the future).
Some Dos and Don’ts
- Do use industry hashtags in order to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in your industry
- Do keep them as short and sweet as possible
- Do keep them neat. Avoid the use of dashes and underscores because people have difficulty remembering where the dash and underscore belong.
- Do Capitalize The First Letter of Each Word in the hashtag so that they are easier to read. Example: #AllThingsSocial #BookeepingDoneForYou
- Do utilize hashtags that are unique to your business or to a program you are creating. For instance, #ExtremeClientCare is a trademarked term from SandraMartini.com so there is little chance that anyone else will use that tag.
- Do remember that folks tend to search for items by utilizing groups of words (think SEO and the words that you normally plug into Google to find an answer. For instance, #Chicken is too broad a result but #ChickenFriedSteakRecipe is a much better search term.)
- Do include hashtags when posting via mobile. Even though they don’t work on mobile devices (yet), they will still translate to Facebook as a clickable hashtag.
- Do use hashtags for events in which you are participating.
- Don’t go overboard. 1 or 2 hashtags per post is sufficient. If you use more, folks won’t even want to read the post. And while I realize that the fun hashtags will always remain ( I created #ImTooSexyForMyOwnHashtag hashtag), it’s also important to use them in a way that will help your business.
- Don’t use hashtags on other people’s status updates or pages unless it is specifically related to the conversation. It’s probably best to just avoid that practice as it may appear spammy.
- Don’t highjack the use of a popular hashtag when it has nothing to do with your status update just to get found in the search results. It’s just poor character to do so.
Remember that anything that is hashtagged (in the future OR in the past) is searchable and retrievable by folks who may not be on your friend list. You may want to change your privacy settings if you are worried about that.