By now, you may have heard or seen that Facebook has now “introduced” hashtags (#) to their users.
A brief explanation:
In a nutshell: hashtags essentially allow people to follow a conversation or a “thread” when everyone uses the same word.
This visual example of how a hashtag works is from Ignite Social Media:
According to Wikipedia, hashtags started in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in 2007, but didn’t gain popularity until it was used in tweets in 2009.
Threads such as #olympics or #michaeljackson, can often be seen “trending” and when you search or follow a specific keyword (which may just be letters/numbers #SSCTO13 for a conference).
Hashtags are particularly useful at conferences and events where you can read what is going on in a separate breakout session or connect with people at the event itself.
According to an article on allthingsD.com, one reason Facebook has adopted the hashtag is for the future use of “Second Screen”.
Second Screen is a term used for people who watch TV and are also connecting and posting via Social Media at the same time.
The hashtag on Facebook would allow brands to sponsor a specific word and get “in front” of a conversation for branding and exposure. Twitter is already capitalizing on sponsored tweets and hashtags.
According to Facebook.com:
“Hashtags are just the first step to help people more easily discover what others are saying about a specific topic and participate in public conversations. We’ll continue to roll out more features in the coming weeks and months, including trending hashtags and deeper insights, that help people discover more of the world’s conversations.”
I suspect that since Facebook is a “walled garden” (requiring log in and password to get access to information) with many users locking down their security settings, that hashtags will only be useful for those who have their settings set to public. This means, brands and marketers won’t be able to get full access to hashtag conversations. This will certainly be a barrier to getting full access to marketing data from its users.
It will be interesting to see how well hashtags will work in the context of Facebook, which is much different than the “real-time” public sharing done on other social media networks.
I think Twitter as a virtual “water cooler” is much different than Facebook and will be curious to see if hashtags actually useful here.
As we know, Social Media is constantly evolving, and until businesses and people experiment with hashtags, we won’t really know whether including this in your Social Media strategy is worthwhile.
Remember, it’s important to think about the retun-on-investment you will get as a result of implementing this into your program.
If you are interested in experimenting, here are a few ways your business can leverage hashtags on Facebook:
1) Extend your brand awareness
On Twitter, anyone can create a hashtag, so if you can rally your community of passionate followers to all use a specific hashtag to promote your business and event, you will extend awareness of your conversation or event
2) Help you research your potential clients
Discovering and researching keywords and interests that your ideal client uses makes it much easier to create a more personal and intimate relationship with your audience. You can talk to your audience in the language they use amongst their peers.
3) Locate your tribe
Similar to point #2, if groups of people who fit within your target demographic are congregating together online, you will be able to find them more readily.
ACTION ITEM: What do you think? If you’re a Twitter user, do you think hashtags will be adopted and be useful in the same way?
Answer with your thoughts below.