Look who decided to join the conversation.
Facebook has announced that their social network is getting #hashtags, those little meta-labels and meta-jokes and meta-ads—those meta-things that you’ve seen on Twitter for almost six years. Well, why? What will they do now? As it turns out, they’ll do a lot of what they’ve been doing already. Facebook explains:
Similar to other services like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest, hashtags on Facebook allow you to add context to a post or indicate that it is part of a larger discussion. When you click on a hashtag in Facebook, you’ll see a feed of what other people and Pages are saying about that event or topic.
Hashtags are still about contextualizing content, joining a larger conversation, and seeing what other people think and have to say about something. Of course Facebook has its own reasons as to why they’re enabling hashtag use (serving ads to hashtag users is a no-brainer when the social network needs revenue to appease shareholders), but why and how should your own business leverage this new (old) feature?
Be Easy to Find
Making an impression can be a difficult thing for brands. They want to target a specific demographic without alienating others; they want to gain broad exposure without appearing too general; they want to be topical without being divisive; they want to be conversational without trying too hard… but standard Facebook advertising and Promoted Posts run the risk of appearing intrusive or irrelevant because nothing guarantees that your content will be seen by the right audience at the right time.
If a user clicks on or searches for a specific hashtag, however, they will see only public posts from persons and brands on Facebook that include the tag and are thus relevant to the topic at hand. Posts with hashtags enter in a wider conversation where they make sense and will be seen by those who most want to see it. Running a sweepstakes or special promotion? Add tags like #giveaway or #promotion and you’ll reach the exact deal-hunters looking for giveaways and promotions, even if they are beyond your brand’s existing network.
Join a Conversation
Giveaways and promotions are a great way to acquire new fans, but an even better way to get new and old fans to visit and revisit your page is to show them meaningful content. To do that, a brand should be up-to-speed and topical, and participate in the discussions that capture the attention of potential customers. According to Facebook, “The recent ‘Red Wedding’ episode of Game of Thrones, received over 1.5 million mentions on Facebook, …a significant portion of the 5.2 million people who watched the show.” Before hashtags that conversation was spread across hundreds of thousands of different walls and feeds, but now it’s consolidated, and open for participants to jump in. So jump in! Use trending hashtags to get your post seen (and keep your post apropos to the conversation).
Put It Out There, Smartly
With hashtags, your business can expand its reach beyond current fans, to consumers seeking specific content or promotions. Make a unified campaign across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with a fun or logical hashtag, knowing that each platform will hold conversations together for your fans and potential fans to see. Use something clever and unique, or pick a phrase that will be seen by consumers searching for good deals and information.
A word of caution, though: A hashtag’s most powerful attribute, virality, can also be its most dangerous. Back in January of 2012, McDonald’s encouraged Twitterers to use #McDStories to share their favorite tender, loving stories of the franchise, but the campaign’s thousands of participants didn’t give Mickey D’s much love at all—even if they did give it tenders: “These #McDStories never get old, kinda like a box of McDonald’s 10 piece Chicken McNuggets left in the sun for a week”, tweeted one user.
Facebook users will have the full freedom to use hashtags however they’d like, so research is crucial before deploying your social campaign. Know your target demographic and know that demographic’s perception of your brand, and you should be able to anticipate their behavior and avoid any #majorfails.
If used correctly, hashtags will give legs to your posts and promotions and reach beyond your existing audience, and if used well your audience will carry your content for you! So tag it up, and let those posts be seen!
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