Long referred to as a pound sign or a number sign, the “#” symbol has been transformed by social media to now be most commonly known as the “hashtag.” In recent years, Twitter had been the social media platform that made the most effective use of the hashtag in many SEO search marketing campaigns. However, as platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ began incorporating the use of hashtags, Facebook, the world’s largest social network with more than 1 billion active users, started making use of hashtags too.
While privacy settings of individual users limit how their posts using hashtags are seen by the worldwide audience, the symbol opens up several new search marketing avenues for public businesses on Facebook. Here are five ways that companies of all sizes can make the most efficient use of this new tool:
- See what’s popular — While Facebook has not formally rolled out a trending hashtags feature like Twitter, businesses can still use the Facebook Graph Search on Facebook to see which ones are popular and generating interest. The most common hashtags are single words or short phrases with the spaces omitted, and you should search Facebook for hashtags relating to your brand.
- Create more engagement, outreach by listening — For years, companies have been encouraging users to show their support by clicking the “Like” buttons on Facebook pages. That provides an idea of a brand’s overall popularity, but it fails to remain timely. There is a good chance that a person who clicked the “Like” button might not be as enthusiastic about a business—much less actively following it—years later. Thus, hashtags prove to be an effective way for companies to stay relevant. Furthermore, hashtags allow businesses to see where they are mentioned in conversations and to participate in them.
- Promote a new product — One of the most common ways that companies use hashtags to create a buzz about a product is to tie them in to deals that people search for. By affixing a hashtag like “#coupon,” “#bargain” or “#discount,” you reach consumers who otherwise might not have found your product.
- Promote a contest, campaign or special event — When hashtags are clever or create inquiry in consumers, they profoundly widen the size of the audience. Coca-Cola, for instance, helped raise awareness for women’s heart health last March with its Heart Truth campaign. The company offered Instagram users who uploaded pictures of themselves holding a heart and used the hashtag “#ShowYourHeart” the chance to win a shopping spree and tickets to a fashion runway show. Similarly, the White House launched a “#40dollars” hashtag campaign in December 2011 to influence debate over the payroll tax in Congress.
- Reach wider audience with cross-platform usage — Businesses aren’t limited to just one social media outlet, and their use of hashtags shouldn’t be either. Many of the most effective campaigns incorporate hashtags not only in posts on social networks, but featured the same hashtags in print and television advertising as well.
While hashtags are new to Facebook, companies should not hesitate to begin strategically implementing them in their posts. Businesses should avoid using too many hashtags in a single post, instead concentrating on the most appropriate word or phrase that will garner the most attention. After all, the benefits of a carefully crafted hashtag aren't limited to a few additional clicks of the "Like" button, but can be counted in new customers.