Hashtags: they’ve been a staple of the Twitter user experience for years. Now Facebook has jumped on the bandwagon, joining other social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, allowing users to attach hashtags to updates.
So what are hastags, exactly?
They are words used as a form of metadata, prefixed with a hash sign (#).Generally embedded into Twitter and other social media posts, they are used to group messages on a common theme. Content associated with hashtags appears in searches on the keyword.
You may already use hashtags as a way to join in on event- or news-driven conversations, but have you thought about how hashtags can bring your brand into more of these conversations? Read on.
Getting started with hashtags
Facebook has the most users of all the social media platforms – a mind-boggling 1,110,000,000 monthly active users. And while they might be late to the hashtag game, it’s still very worth your while as a business to start playing.
Facebook’s help page explains: “Hashtags turn topics and phrases into clickable links in your posts on your personal timeline or Page. This helps people find posts about topics they’re interested in.”
Here’s how you can use Facebook hashtags to improve your visibility – and maybe earn your brand some valuable online credibility.
Expand your reach
Unlike Twitter, Facebook allows for the rich combination of image and text in an update. When promoting a product or service you have the ability to showcase a photo along with the copy (and without the 140-character restriction of Twitter). With the addition of hashtags, your product announcement becomes a triple threat.
Here’s how it works. Along with your details of your product, add a few hashtags to the copy. These should be short, simple keywords that potential customers would be searching for.
For example, if your business provides health products, add tags like #health, #hearthealth, #weightloss, #naturopath, etc. By associating these tags with your Facebook post, you ensure that your update will appear in search results for those terms. And this means added visibility for your product.
Listen in to what people are saying
You can also learn a lot about the climate or perception of the business you’re in – just by following hashtags. How do users feel about a product? Search that hashtag and see if a conversation has been started. How do some people feel about particular services – are there trends or common complaints?
By “listening in” on these comments, you can gain insight on how your industry or product is perceived in the marketplace. This might even present opportunities for your business to either improve perception or take advantage of popular tastes.
Promote a contest or campaign
Have a contest or campaign to promote? Make sure that Facebook hashtags are part of your content marketing strategy.
For example, let’s say that you are a financial advisory company. You want to build some brand awareness by holding a contest with free sessions as the grand prize. How can Facebook hashtags help? Think money and trees. Get followers to interpret the theme and share photos or stories with the hashtag #moneytree. Anyone can search on the tag #moneytree – especially if they want to see other entries or follow along in the contest. And your business can track entries, simply by following the hashtag.
Done: Some positive brand association and visibility for your company.
Hashtags give companies an insider look into what customers – and the general public – think about their product or service, but this is all predicated on executing the new option effectively. A hashtag is only helpful if people are actually using it. Make it easy for people to get talking about your product. And help to make the conversation interesting.
Researching your hashtag is vital, too, as it may already be in use or there could be a similar tag out there. Search on your preferred keywords first to see what appears.
Be a respectful hashtagger
OK, so now you’re ready to take your Facebook posts to the next level. Before you jump in, here are a few tips for earning your hashtagging stripes:
- Don’t overdo it. Too many hashtags can be confusing and they clutter up your post. Also, it can look like you’re trying too hard (i.e. over-promotional).
- It’s not about being clever. It’s about being smart. Avoid using cute or abstract terms. Keep the message clear and simple.
- Make it memorable. Come up with terms that both represent your business and will leave an impression. Terms that people will remember. A great inbound marketing company can help with this.
- Stick with it. After some early momentum, it’s easy to lose steam early on. Keep with it. As more and more businesses start using hashtags, your plan will already be established.
What’s your experience with using hashtags? Have you tried using them on Facebook?
Image: melenita2012, on Flickr
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