Facebook Hashtags: What You Need To Know
You may have heard the Big News. As suggested a few months ago, Facebook finally joined Twitter, Google+, Instagram and others by supporting Hashtags. For individuals and personal Facebook users, this is pretty cool. But for businesses, this could potentially be Huge. Hashtags are when you add a pound sign (#) in front a word in a post to indicate a keyword that is significant to that post, like #SocialMedia. On the networks that support it, Hashtags are automatically linked to every instance of that Hashtag on the network, allowing users to see conversations and posts that they might not normally have seen.
Why Use Hashtags?
So the first question many of you may be asking is why? Why bother? The reason is simple. According to Facebook, as of last month, over 4.75 Billion posts are created every day on the network. Many of these posts are on the same topics. For instance, each evening during primetime television, there are between 88 and 100 million Americans using and engaging on Facebook. This is correctly pointed out as being a Super Bowl-sized audience!
But up until now, Facebook users could only see what their friends were talking about. Even though 1.5 million Facebook users were talking about Game of Thrones the other night, you could only have seen a small portion of that conversation, and businesses had no way to participate in the conversation on a global scale.
That's all changed.
Hashtags Coming to Facebook
So in an official announcement, Facebook has stated that they have implemented Hashtag support for select people and Pages, and will be rolling out the functionality network-wide in the coming weeks.
As users, we don't have to do anything special other than continue to use Hashtags like we have been on other networks.
Note that only Public status updates that include Hashtags will be visible by the Public. If you are being particular about your status updates and are choosing to only allow Friends or specific Lists to be able to see those updates, than those are still the only people who can see that post no matter what Hashtags you use. Just like with Facebook's Graph Search, your private posts will remain private.
So, that does mean that you should give some consideration to who you want to be able to see your posts. Up until now, even if you make your posts Public, it was still likely that only your connections would see them. Now, by creating a Public post and including a Hashtag, it's far more likely that people you don't know will see what you're saying. Twitter and Google+ users are used to that, but this may come as a bit of a shock for some Facebook users who have grown accustomed to the closed nature of the network.
In addition to being able to click Hashtags, Facebook users can search specific Hashtags from the search bar, like #NBAFinals, and while you're in a Hashtag feed and search results, you can compose a tagged message just like on Twitter.
Trending Hashtags and Hashtag Insights will be coming soon. It is also expected that an update to the mobile apps will be forthcoming.
If you've been using Facebook pretty exclusively, you might not have had a lot of opportunities to use Hashtags, so let's run through the Hashtag Code so you're familiar with the rules. Well, they're more like guidelines, really.
- Do not use Hashtags that are unrelated to the rest of your post.
- Do not use more than 2 - 3 Hashtags per post.
- You can use Hashtags within text like #this or append at the end of the post.
- You can Hashtag multiple words but you must omit all spaces #SoThatWordsRunTogether
- It's good form to capitalize first letters when Hashtagging multiple words.
Facebook Hashtags for Business
So as business owners and managers of Facebook Pages, what else do we need to know?
First, according to the announcement, you will be able to use Hashtags in Facebook Advertising! This is a pretty clear divergence from other networks, and will be interesting to see exactly how it works. As yet, there's no indication if your ads with appropriate Hashtags will be included in the stream of Hashtags, or if Hashtags within an ad will simply be clickable like normal Hashtags, but reveal only status updates from other users with that tag.
Second, this now allows Facebook Pages to take part in larger conversations and be found more easily by millions of Facebook users. If you're not yet utilizing a Facebook Page to reach out to and engage a larger audience, NOW IS THE TIME. Every business needs to have a Facebook Page and begin to have conversations there. As you provide interesting and helpful information, and include relevant Hashtags, more and more people will see your posts and potentially Like your Page, giving you a larger audience.
Finally, Facebook has specifically stated that use of Hashtags will not affect your post distribution. That means that just because you use a Hashtag, that doesn't necessarily mean that more of your existing Page followers will see your post. Your post and your activity will still be regulated by Facebook EdgeRank. The addition of the Hashtag means that your post may increase in visibility only if you choose a Hashtag that other people are interested in and actively clicking from elsewhere within Facebook.
I hope that gives you a good idea of what's going on with Facebook Hashtags and how to use them. If you have further questions or would like to share what you think, please comment below.