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June 14, 2013

Hashtags, Coming to a Facebook Newsfeed Near You

Facebook has mastered the art of generating buzz around much anticipated feature rollouts. Facebook hashtags are no exception. There has been chatter online and offline alike around whether hashtags will ever have meaning on Facebook, despite current widespread use.

Since the advent of the hashtag in 2007 it had been widely adopted by prominent social networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ as a way to aggregate and participate in topic specific conversation. So, the real question regarding the Facebook hashtag transcendence is what it actually means for marketers.

#Discovery

When Facebook released the updated algorithm decreasing the visibility of brand posts among their audience, many brands were forced to rethink their social strategy. In order to garner the same type of reach, they needed to become smarter and more in-tune with the type of content that resonated with their community. The introduction of hashtags now provides brands with another layer of visibility. These now clickable hashtags will bring up a list of posts from friends and followed pages that contain the tag allowing for a greater level of content discovery outside of users' immediate friend circle. While Twitter remains their biggest competitor in the social space, perhaps this move, coupled with the introduction of Graph Search, points to Facebook now setting its sights on Google.

#Amplification

Facebook hashtags now have the potential to make hashtag-based campaigns even more impactful through cross-channel amplification of the message. If brands are already using hashtags in a campaign through other channels, these campaigns can now extend to Facebook. Hashtags only amplify the native role Facebook plays in joining and driving conversations. However, the same best practices on Facebook still apply ' compelling copy and photography that are in the brand voice work best.

#Insight

Facebook is already a data mine in and of itself, but hashtags provide a deeper layer of conversation-based insight for brands. According to Facebook, this is only the first step in surfacing relevant and important public conversations. Over time we will see additional functionality for marketers, including trending hashtags and new insights to allow brands to better understand conversations that may help drive business objectives.

Hashtags certainly mark an important shift toward conversation-based marketing for Facebook, and we are eager to see where they go next.  The great news is that at the very least, we can now all rest assured that when we see our friend's annoying and irrelevant hashtag on Facebook; it will be aggregated into a group of other people's annoying, irrelevant hashtags. #phew.

April 6, 2013

A #Winning Move: Facebook Adopts the Hashtag

Facebook Hashtag

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.

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