Hashtag your heart out, Facebook

Like it or not, Facebook is finally rolling out Hashtags.

Back in March, we started to hear rumblings that Hashtags would come to Facebook. Since then, we have been patiently waiting to see how this would affect users, and especially brands, while serving an actual purpose for the social network. Essentially, the point of the hashtag on any social media platform is to encourage people to engage in a public conversation by using the clickable #hashtag word or phrase. Until now, hashtags used within Facebook posts have been pointless and annoying – which is why the announcement was met with mostly criticism from the public. Regardless of your feelings, they are here and they will be clickable, searchable, and useful.

Why hashtags and what will they do?

If you are familiar with Twitter and Instagram (and even Google+, Flickr, Pinterest, and Tumblr), you know that words preceded by the # symbol (ex: #socialmedia or #foodtruck or #flashbackfriday) are clickable words or phrases that will take you to an organized feed of posts or images about that word or phrase. The purpose for Facebook is similar. Facebook wants its users to be able to find useful content in an easier way.

How will they work differently on Facebook?

There are a couple of ways these will work. When you click on a Facebook hashtag within a personal or brand page post, a box will open on top of the main Facebook page (shadowing out the home page feed) showing other people and pages within a user’s network who have used that hashtag recently – in chronological order. You will also see contributions from Facebook users who have their profiles set to public. So, even if they are outside of your network of friends and pages, they could show up if they have also used the hashtag. This example shows RedEye Chicago promoting their Lollapalooza scavenger hunt with #lollascavengerhunt.

 

Brands Hashtag on Facebook

RedEye tests our hashtags with their Lollapalooza Scavenger Hunt

 

You can also search for a hashtag in the search bar at the top of the page, as seen below. So, if I want to see what people are saying about Chicago, I would type in #Chicago and click on the result that populates below the search bar. I will then be directed to a feed of posts from people in my network, pages in my network, and other public profiles recently using the hashtag #Chicago. From that page, you can join in on the conversation. Notice in the second image below that the message in the status update box has changed from “What’s on your mind?” to “Say something about #chicago…”. When you click to write something, the hashtag automatically populates.

 

Facebook Hashtags

Searching for #chicago on Facebook

Hashtags on Facebook

The #chicago feed on Facebook

What will it mean for brands on Facebook?

Right off the bat, brands will now be able to cross-post from Instagram in a more meaningful way. Previously, any posts on the other platforms using hashtags looked strange on Facebook. Posts using hashtags will have greater public reach on Facebook. This is important because, not only will brand posts show up in the news feed of people who ‘like’ their brand page, they will also show up in the feed specific to the phrase/s used. Using them the right way will help brands to reach a broader audience with their messaging and allow brands to join in on relevant real-time conversations.

As always, when something new rolls out on Facebook, there is still a little to be learned about using hashtags. One of the main differences between Facebook and Twitter is that Facebook users are much more private on Facebook. Twitter lends itself to be a public soapbox of sorts for the majority of its users. Because of this, marketers are able to see actionable data from the content Twitter users put out. This may take longer for Facebook. Facebook recently launched Graph Search which relies on users page ‘likes’ as behavioral targeting, which can be misleading. The actual value of our ‘likes’ on Facebook is questionable and in some cases superficial. The good news is that hashtags should go one step further by tracking the actual content people are creating, making graph search a bit more useful. Down the road, we will see (like Twitter) more meaningful insights on our hashtag use as well as trending hastags and eventually even sponsored hashtags.

Tips and Tricks for using hashtags on Facebook.

  • Don’t over-do it. Nothing is more annoying than an entire paragraph of hashtagged words. It’s unnecessary.
  • Think of what you are posting and why. If it makes sense to join a conversation already in the works, feel free to hashtag a word or phrase that other people are actively using and, more importantly, searching for.
  • Only if it makes sense. Don’t start hashtagging trending topics just to gain visibility. It will be annoying and confusing to your fans. Stick with what works for your business and industry.
  • Develop a hashtag ad campaign. If you aren’t already using a hashtag specific to your brand on Twitter and Instagram, now is the time to think of some ideas. Your potential reach for brand awareness around a specific campaign you are running just got larger.

 

What do you think? Is Facebook just a little late to the game? Will you use hashtags on Facebook?

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