The almighty hashtag. Twitter uses it explicitly. Instagram and Google+ too. So what about Facebook?
“Has Facebook caught on to the trend and, if so, what does that mean for the social media titan moving forward?”
The answer to that is “Yes” and, if Facebook is to be believed, the social platform’s future looks even brighter in terms of tools to enable conversation discovery.
Facebook Incorporates the Hashtag
Hashtagging had already been popular for 6 years prior to Facebook finally getting in on the action in 2013. So what exactly got the billion dollar platform to finally open up to the concept?
In short, Facebook wanted to provide their users and advertisers an easier way to find trending conversations, events, and topics. Enabling hashtag use on the platform would be seen as a really good start. This allowed users’ topics to gain traction in real time and have advertisers reach a particular audience much faster. Where once a hashtag was something tacked onto the end of a conversation or post, users can now compose posts directly from a searched hashtag or hashtag feed.
Hashtags were already being used on Zuckerburg’s social media platform but had not yet been made clickable or searchable. Instagram, which Facebook purchased in 2011, was already densely packed with many hashtags across a wide spectrum from #nofilter to #followme. So what took Facebook so long?
Maybe the Facebook API needed far more work to incorporate the hashtag feature into its frame. Perhaps they were waiting for a more suitable reason like the success of existing Twitter marketing campaigns before coming to terms with the future.
Whatever the reason may be, Facebook has adopted the hashtag for the long term, as well as promised to produce additional features to bring more conversations to the forefront.
Tips for Hashtag Use on Facebook
Using hashtags in your posts not only draws attention to a certain topic but can too help build your business, drive traffic to a specific site, and garner a hefty following if done correctly.
- It’s ill-advised to overdo it on hashtag use as you’re more likely to put people off, which is the opposite of what the feature is supposed to be used for. Most experts agree that using only 1 or 2 hashtags in your posts is suitable for getting your point across without driving away the attention saught.
- If you want to establish a conversation around a specific topic, make sure the hashtag is just as specific. Wanting to get people involved in wildlife preservation would benefit more from a #PreserveWildlife or #SavetheAnimals than something such as #SavetheTigersBearsCheetahsHippos. However, if the focal point of the conversation is about saving Bengal tigers in China then #SavetheChinaBengals would be more suitable.
- Ensure that you capitalize the first letter of every prominent word in the topic to draw more attention. #SchwartzSnoCones is far more easily noticed than #schwartzsnocones. Your hashtag should also be unique while still remaining relevant.
- Include hashtags even when posting on a mobile device. I dare say it is even more popular to do so via mobile device especially considering life happens everywhere. Spot a celebrity at your favorite restaurant? Hashtag it. Just finalized the sale on your new home? Hashtag it. Can’t believe how awesome that burger was you just had for lunch? You know what to do.
- If you catch a conversation already accompanied by a hashtag that mirrors a similar conversation to your own, join in. Build a deeper conversation by adding their hashtag to yours accompanied by a related post. This will only help you reach a larger audience. Again, be careful not to overdo it with additional hashtags. This will only serve to drive the conversation’s traffic off-topic and away from its original purpose.
- Prevent a hashtag hijacking by remaining vigilant. Once a hashtag has been established, it becomes free to use by anyone. If the wrong individuals get a hold of it, the original topic could quickly spiral down a hole of negativity. Remain cautious and attempt to drive the traffic of your hashtag towards its intended use.
Is Hashtag Privacy a Thing on Facebook?
Privacy is most definitely still a thing on Facebook and this includes hashtags. If you set your posts to friends only, then only your friends will be able to see your hashtag conversations. In order to pull in a larger audience, you’ll need to open your page to more viewers and that may or may not be something in which you’re comfortable.
There is one caveat. Posting a public conversation accompanied by a hashtag actually makes the hashtag visible and clickable by anyone. This also includes anyone looking at your friend’s feed. So you could establish a hashtag following while still maintaining your friend only privacy settings. People cannot, however, search for your hashtag unless they are friends of your account.
Any post established as private or friend only remains just that. This includes anything your friends may post within the conversation. Your friend’s friends can see what they’ve posted but not what you’ve posted.
Should You Use Hashtags on Facebook?
As a user who wishes to build deep conversations on a global scale or draw attention to a trendy topic worthy of note, yes. Why not? I don’t believe there is any harm in speaking your mind, finding your voice, and letting people hear it and chime in.
From a business perspective, the use of hashtags on other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram has seen its share of growth over the years. However, the Facebook character limit is pretty low in comparison, especially with the recent upgrade to Twitter’s tweet limit. This causes marketers to be a bit more choosy with what their posts may entail as well as which hashtags are best used for what little space is allowed.
Some brands have ignored hashtags altogether on Facebook. Others choose to post them as needed. As there is no direct correlation between the increase or decrease in engagement with the use of hashtags on Facebook, it’s ultimately up to the business to decide if the use of them is worth the effort.
In the end, for businesses, it’s all about social listening and following social media trends in order to acquire exposure and growth.