#Hashtags. Love them or hate them?
Regardless of your opinion, it looks like they are here to stay. In fact, they are about to become more ingrained in our vernacular, with hashtags being rolled out across Facebook for public conversations as I write this post. Facebook Hashtags now work within the public status updates and comments you post within Facebook Pages, Profiles and Groups.
What Is A Hashtag?
As seen on other social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ (to name a few), a hashtag is a word or a phrase prefixed with the symbol #. Hashtags are a form of metadata tags that allow for grouping and searching for public conversations around common interests, such as topics or events that contain the same Hashtag.
People have been using Hashtags on Facebook for some time now, regardless of the fact that they meant nothing, which used to annoy me. Hashtags are such a part of popular culture that people even use them #IRL by saying things like “Hashtag In Real Life” when they speak. Now that’s really annoying!
But now there is a real use for Hashtags on Facebook, it is time to get used to it.
How Do You Create Facebook Hashtag?
To create a Hashtag on Facebook (or any other social media platform), place the # symbol in front of the word that you want as a Hashtag. The Hashtag you create must commence immediately after the #symbol, with no spaces. When you commence a word with a Hashtag, Facebook will automatically recognise it as a Hashtag and it will highlight the word to make it clickable in a similar fashion to how @Tags work on Facebook.
Hashtags Are Clickable And Searchable
Each Hashtag is clickable. Once clicked, it will display other public posts on Facebook that contain that same Hashtag. Facebook Hashtags are also searchable via the search bar at the top of Facebook or by typing facebook.com/hashtag/INSERTHASHTAG (each hashtag has it’s own unique URL). You can also click on Hashtags that originate on other services, such as Twitter or Instagram.
What is interesting to note in my initial trials is that the results appear to be subject to a social relevance algorithm (like edgerank). Rather than them displaying in chronological order. I have to scroll a fair way through the feed before I start seeing conversations from people and businesses that I am not connected with, even if they were posted more recently.
You can also compose posts directly from the Hashtag feed and search results.
Hashtag Privacy Issues
Before you jump up and down about potential privacy issues, your privacy settings will prevail. So if you have your content set to only be shared with your Friends, then those updates you have created that include Hashtags will only be visible to your Friends and not to everyone that searches for any of the Hashtags you have used.
Now is probably a good time to go an re-check your settings if you have any concerns!
What Implications Will Hashtags On Facebook Have For My Business?
Hashtags will be a new way for people and businesses to discover and engage in the more than 4.75 billion pieces of content that are shared on Facebook each day (Facebook internal data, May 2013).
Each Facebook Hashtag will have it’s own unique URL, with the ability for people to comment on that Hashtag. You can share that URL via other social networks, blog posts and other sites to gain greater engagement from people who otherwise may not have known about the conversation.
If you haven’t already set up any Hashtags around your business, events or advertising campaigns, then now is the time to do so. Obviously creating and using a Hashtag yourself won’t be sufficient. You will need to promote the use of your Hashtags both on and offline using similar channels to how you would promote your Facebook Page URL to drive more Page Likes. Think in-store signage, your website, business cards, brochures, advertising campaigns, etc.
If your business is already using Hashtags through other channels, then you can now amplify these campaigns by promoting their use on Facebook and joining in those conversations on Facebook as well as the other platforms.
To track their use, you should be regularly searching for the real-time conversations being generated around not only your hashtags, but those of your competitors, partners and other brands that have a similar audience.
Regardless of whether or not you have the new Hashtag feature as yet, you should start using Hashtags strategically in your public Facebook posts as everyone who has the feature will see them as clickable links. Plus, once you have access to the feature, you will already have some searchable content based on those Hashtags that you have already created.
Another reason for the strategic use of Hashtags, is the initial reports coming in indicating that you may gain increased reach if you target highly trafficked Hashtags. This makes sense. If a lot of people are searching for a particular Hashtag, then more people will be exposed to your content if it includes that particular Hashtag.
Rollout of Facebook Hashtags
Whilst not available in phase one of the Hashtag roll out, Facebook intends to include other functions, such as being clickable on mobile, Hashtag trending and insights with time. Not until these features become available will the true value of Hashtags on Facebook be appreciated.
So are you a fan of the use of Hashtags on Facebook as a way of allowing you to add context to a post or indicate that it is part of a larger discussion? Or do you feel they will just become an annoying distraction from achieving your overall Facebook business objectives? Let me know your thoughts on Facebook Hashtags in the comments below.