Hashtags have been all the rage these days now that Facebook has incorporated their use into their platform. Hashtags have been around on other platforms for a while, but what’s new is that you can use them on Facebook and expect to get searchable results now, too. Therein lies the key to hashtags – on every social media network. They are all about the search. They give context, or assign topics, to your social posts. If you only understand one thing about these handy little tools, what you need to remember is that they allow you to add an extra layer of search definition to your online activity.
Let’s look at a few truths about hashtags.
If you do a search on Twitter or Google, for instance, you will get different results depending on whether or not you use a hashtag. That will now be true on Facebook, too. (Many speculate that this addition on Facebook is because of Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012. Instagrammers’ rampant use of hashtags was seen as a marketing venue not previously taken advantage of, and Facebook wanted in on it. Marketers will most likely be able to target by hashtags on their Facebook Ads.)
Hashtag search results are narrower in scope as a rule, which is often what you are looking for when you are trying to do an online search. The more precise the hashtag, the more filtered your search results will be. I often describe hashtags as “magnets” that pull specific content to you by topic, based on the terms used. Hashtags “magnetize” the precise content you’re trying to narrow down.
Hashtags can be added to a single word/term (#pdi) or to a string of words (#polkadotimpressions). Notice that there are no spaces and that capitalization is not necessary. However, if you want to emphasize the different words making it easier for everyone to read, use upper and lower case letters (#PolkaDotImpressions). That will not change the search results that come up, but it will make it significantly easier for others to read your hashtags.
Ideally, hashtags would be short or fairly simple, and you should try to avoid overusing them on a single social media post, unless you are using a hashtag to be clever or silly. And that may be the other way that you will occasionally see hashtags being used. For instance, #WhatAreAllTheseRidiculousThingsDoingOnMyFacebookFeedAnyway is an example of a hashtag used in an attempt at humor, and probably one that you’ve already seen on Facebook!
Let’s go one step further looking at hashtags. As a business leader or marketer, you may want to begin using hashtags in your professional or personal posts on your social networks. This allows you to “define” the topic of your post so that you can search for it later to revisit that conversation. More importantly, it also allows your conversation to be searchable by others. This has obvious key word marketing and branding implications. Social media lovers and marketers alike have jumped on the hashtag bandwagon and the more searchable their social content, the better off they are.
But all of this assumes that the average user of social media, your potential customers and prospects, will begin searching with hashtags. There are still plenty of Twitter users who don’t use any hashtags at all, and the feature is relatively new on Google+ and now Facebook. So the question must be raised, will people begin using hashtags in great abundance to do their online searches?
Some social media trends don’t seem to take off, but hashtags will likely be a different scenario. With the addition of hashtags to the world’s largest social media network, they will be difficult to avoid seeing. The more comfortable someone is with how to use a hashtag, and with the abundance of information available online, it is likely that even the most reluctant hashtag user will not only begin to use them, but use them in their online searches in order to filter out some of the less relevant content that tends to get in the way of good search results. The truth about hashtags is that we all need to filter out unnecessary content and magnetize the best information, so hashtags are something with which you need to get comfortable.