The idea of clickable hashtags on Facebook has been mooted for a while and now they have finally become live. But is this a good thing and how could it be useful to businesses?
If you are a Twitter user, then you will be familiar with the liberal smatterings of #s throughout people’s tweets. Adding a hashtag to a tweet is a way of joining a bigger conversation or adding your tweet to a ‘file’: when anyone clicks on a hashtag and word, this opens up a new newsfeed with all other tweets containing the same hashtag. Active Twitter users make excellent use of hashtags for tagging their tweets into wider conversations and search groups: both for commercial purposes and to discuss timely news items and TV programmes. It’s a system we are used to and one that works well in the confines of 140 characters, and the simplicity of Twitter.
And now hashtags have come to Facebook.
But what does this change mean for businesses and how can you harness the power of the #?
One of the key benefits of using a hashtag is that people are more likely to come across your content when searching. If you have Facebook’s super-duper new Open Graph search function, then you can search directly in the search bar for hashtags and their associated words. If, like most of us, this has yet to be rolled out to you, then you need to go to www.facebook.com/hashtag/yoursearchword, eg www.facebook.com/hastag/businessdevelopment to find what you’re looking for.
Whichever search method you use, you will see a stream of posts all containing the hashtag you searched for. As the usage grows, this could mean Facebook becomes a research engine to rival Twitter. It certainly means that if you’re an early adopter, you could gain greater exposure through strategically chosen hashtag words.
Large brands are already using hashtags to monitor their mentions on Facebook, although this only works as far as individual privacy settings allow. If someone included the hashtag #redbull in their post, Red Bull would only be able to see this if that person’s privacy settings for that post were set to public. Facebook assure us that there is no chance a ‘friends only’ post will become public simply by the inclusion of a hashtag.
There seem to be pros and cons for the use of hashtags on Facebook, but, if used strategically, they could well be another great research and monitoring tool.