On June 12, 2013 Facebook announced the introduction of clickable hashtags. Coming more than a year after their acquisition of Instagram (who already used #), this is hardly a surprise move, but it does highlight a couple of interesting points about the way social media is developing. More importantly, it serves as a timely reminder that you can’t afford to sit still when it comes to the social media elements of your emarketing strategy.
The first point is the hashtag itself. Social network jargon is here to stay and need to get to grips with it. Facebook could have found a hundred different ways to link threads across their network but they adopted the industry standard. This is a great indication of the way social networks are moving towards common ground and also a great example of how a company can put themselves firmly on the right side of users. Users want this consistency and you can benefit from it, too.
So, if you don’t already use hashtags in your marketing material, you need to start. It sends a clear message of the direction your business is going and invites viewers to interact with you via the medium of their choice.
Secondly, think about what the hashtag represents. These are labels created by users to share content with other users. Anyone can make one up but each is only as effective as the number of people using it. Since they aren’t owned by any network, they are the perfect embodiment of the bottom-up power of social media (there are plenty of cases of ‘official’ hashtags being eclipsed by popular ones, and the smarter companies ditch the former in favour of the latter).
So, when you do use hashtags, remember that you are giving all social network users a free reign to discuss you and your business. Anywhere, and at any time. You can‘t control what they do, and you certainly can’t put the genie back in the bottle. The best you can do is keep up and learn from your experiences, good and bad. We recommend you search for and view real-time public conversations and test strategies to drive those conversations using hashtags. And don’t forget that trending is all about momentum so make sure that you have some great content online before you start.
Lastly, in their announcement Facebook explicitly mentioned the other networks that use hashtags. This is a good reminder that the big, established networks shouldn’t be considered as rivals, but simply as different features in the social media landscape. And although hashtags may now be a universal concept they only actually work within individual networks. So tailor your content to the network, and try to make complementary pairings to encourage cross-network traffic.
In terms of what this means for you and your Facebook profile in particular, it will still take some months before Facebook has fully rolled out its functionality. If you are using hashtags in campaigns on other channels, amplify these by including them in Facebook. And any other tags that you use on other platforms that are connected to your Facebook Page will be automatically clickable and searchable on Facebook.
You could also think about replacing all your ‘Share our content on…’ or ‘Visit us on…’ icons in emails with a single, bold hashtag. Maybe A/B test this on a few campaigns to see how the universal approach to networks performs compared to the individual one.
Facebook hashtags also now open the door to real-time marketing. Facebook does not currently allow advertisers to target people posting a specific hashtag or to sponsor a hashtag, as is the case with Twitter, but in an increasingly competitive and converging market Facebook could easily follow suit.
As a final note, hashtags do not impact your distribution or engagement in News Feeds on either desktop or mobile. We still recommend you continue to focus on your existing campaigns to drive your most important business objectives.