By: Kate Huebler, Guest Blogger
On June 12th Facebook announced the official rollout of linked hashtags to “bring conversations to the forefront” as networks like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr have been for quite some time. While it has been common practice to include hashtags in posts to Facebook, primarily those syndicated from Instagram or Twitter, they contained no functionality. As with everything else, you can choose to control whether your hashtag post is public, just for friends or for specific friends.
Facebook is essentially repositioning itself from what it has been referred to as “the walled garden” to a platform that which people who may not already know each other can connect over topics of shared interest. Up until now, this type of behavior was isolated to Twitter and Google+.
Here are expert tips on how to use Facebook hashtags to make the most out of the public conversation without frustrating your audience.
Tip 1: Monitor Hashtag Conversations
Use the hashtags for active listening on Facebook. Determine what hashtags people use to discuss your brand topics and simply listen. You can learn a lot about what they think, how they use your product, and how you can better connect with them when you are ready to join the conversation.
Tip 2: Find Topics You’re Interested In
What are your hobbies and interests? What non-branded topics relate to your industry or brand? There are all different types of ways to phrase things, so try a few searches to discover topics to engage with. For example: if you love to play basketball try #hoops or #basketball. If you sell basketballs look at performance, fitness, and motivational conversations.
Tip 3: Use Hashtags Sparingly
Because it’s a new feature for some people who’ve never used a hashtag in their life, take it slow. Use hashtags sparingly at first while Facebook users are getting used to them. Currently on Twitter some people and brands use multiple tags in one tweet. This is not always an #amazing #idea, because you might look like you are #overdoingit. One tag is great, two are fine as long as they make sense, but more can seem excessive. It’s important not to overwhelm your followers with excessive hashtags.
Tip 4: Stay On Topic
Make sure your hashtags are relevant, not spammy. Consider using topics that are relevant to the conversation you should be having whether it is B2B communications or B2C. Tagging onto conversations for current events and everyday topics can be a good tactic. We will see brands take opportunities using Facebook hashtags to engage in realtime conversations as Oreo did during the Superbowl black out. View their now famous tweet here. Taking a risk can pay off big with flawless execution. It can also go the other direction if it sounds unnatural.
Tip 5: Stick to Guidelines
Respect your audience by abiding by Facebook guidelines. Currently, Facebook has very specific guidelines for contests, which include using a third-party app to manage contests. This means that hashtag contests that would include posting copy, images or videos directly to the timeline as an entry are still not O.K. to do on Facebook.
Tip 6: Expand Your Reach
Use hashtags to create an ongoing conversation and expand reach. For example, if someone comments on your Facebook page and the topic takes off you can expand the virality of the post by adding a hashtag to extend it to the public conversation. Post photos, text updates and more with a descriptive hashtag that is in popular use. From your personal profile you can get more reach by selectively posting “public” messages utilizing popular hashtags.
Here’s what social media experts are saying about Facebook hashtags.
I think, and would hope brands would be much more strategic about using them, as well as influencers and bloggers. While there are always hashtags (on any platform) that are meant to be fun or ironic, brands need to be careful as to how they want their article or post to be “categorized.” Using hashtags which can be used on multiple platforms might be a good start, such as those meant to be tracked for certain campaigns / contests, but it’s going to be a test and see thing as they start appearing in timelines and determining how best the brand can utilize them without being spammy or over-using them.
I see hashtags as a way for brands/people to cluster information around a certain theme, and this over time and regardless of one’s location. They stimulate easy sharing and finding related info and co-creation. In my eyes this makes them handy on any site. I feel one day we only have to type in a # and a name, search term or keyword to find stuff anywhere on the web. Hashtags used sparingly and wisely can be great for branding, during events, in campaigns etc……and yes they can also #CrackMeUp.
I think hashtags on FB will add value. Clicking a hashtag will search outside of your network, a good way to break out of the insularity of the Facebook News Feed algorithm. #bringit
[Quote updated 6/28/13]