Ah, the hashtag. In recent years, this innocuous symbol has taken the social web by storm: it has a beloved'and downright iconic'presence on Twitter, and it's hard to look at an Instagram feed, Pinterest board, or YouTube video without ignoring the barrage of hashtagged comments. We're even speaking in hashtags'weaving a new vernacular to the beat of every #fail, and providing a layer of complexity to each #winning moment. In short, hashtags are awesome. #sorrynotsorry.
So, when Facebook announced they were jumping on the hashtag bandwagon, we weren't surprised. With this move, Facebook joins the ranks of other social media behemoths in a mission to better understand the desires and engagement habits of its community members. The announcement comes on the heels of RadiumOne's recent finding that nearly 75% of social media users are using hashtags to share relevant ideas and contribute to trending topics. Not to mention hashtag usage has already spilled over to Facebook despite the current lack of significance.
From a marketing standpoint, we wish there was a 'love'? button for the new Facebook hashtag. It's a game-changer in terms of tracking the conversations surrounding your brand, capitalizing on earned media, and gaining new consumer insights on Facebook. Here's what you need to know:
Beyond the 'Like'?
Until now, we've measured Facebook engagement in likes, comments, and shares. But marketers are aiming to move beyond the 'like'? and embrace new metrics to define success. Hashtags will be at the forefront of this push for richer measurement, adding a new dimension to understanding a brand's social presence. Beyond 'liking'? to show approval or commeting on a single post, consumers can use hashtags to initiate or join a conversation and to find others who echo our sentiments. For marketers, hashtags will allow for a more organized look at the buzz surrounding our brands. What are people talking about, and are there any relevant conversations you can/should join?
New Earned Media Possibilities
Your News Feed is cluttered with sponsored posts and paid advertisements, and you're sick of it. Right? In recent years, we've become particularly good at tuning out these paid strategies, and marketers are becoming increasingly concerned with finding new avenues for engagement on social media. The hashtag should provide a potentially fruitful new possibility for brands'the ability to expand viral reach without paying to do so. Create conversations through branded hashtags, encourage community members to post with the hashtag, or join conversations relevant to your brand. You'll be able to greatly expand your Facebook presence and reach entirely new audiences.
Leverage It Up
The Facebook hashtag provides yet another opportunity to leverage your social strategy across multiple sites. Have you coined a popular hashtag on Twitter? Bring it to your Facebook community to encourage enhanced conversations around your brand. You can also use hashtags for cross-channel promotion, encouraging users to share relevant content with their different social sites via the hashtag. Do you currently live-tweet with a hashtag, or Instagram event photos with a hashtag? Keep doing what you're doing, but don't forget to share on Facebook as well!
Take Advantage of Graph Search
The announcement of the Facebook hashtag means bigger and better things for the new Graph Search. In its current state, Graph Search relies mainly on 'Likes'? and profile details to dictate its search results. But hashtags should allow for a more comprehensive understanding of community members. For example, I may 'like'? One Direction's fan page (ironically, of course. Ok, maybe a little non-ironically), but I probably won't have much interaction with the page beyond the initial 'Like.'? Hashtags, on the other hand, will give more insight into what I'm really prioritizing on Facebook. Which conversations have I joined? What buzz-worthy content am I sharing and why? With hashtags, my thoughts and ideas will be catalogued, and it will be easier to find like-minded users. Graph Search just got way more exciting.
It's time to embrace the Facebook hashtag. In the process, you'll develop a relationship with your followers, join relevant conversations, and better understand the sentiments surrounding your brand. A #winning social media strategy, if you ask us.