If you haven’t noticed by now, Facebook finally gave users what they wanted earlier this year by making hashtags live and searchable. But what’s a hashtag and why should you care?
During the dawn of social media, circa 2006, hashtags were born on Twitter. There they remained for a while, obscure and elusive as most of Twitter language and culture is. Over time, however, this quirky shorthand has slipped into the mainstream.
Twitter and hashtags may be familiar to some of us, but they continue to be a mystery for many.
Facebook users still outnumber Twitter users by a large margin. Facebook has 1.11 billion-with-a-B users, while Twitter claims a mere 500 million (as of June 2013). Twitter users are a force to be reckoned with, don’t get me wrong. In fact, they made the hashtag so popular that it’s part of almost all social media platforms–Instagram, Pinterest, FourSquare, and now Facebook, the grandaddy of them all.
We’ve covered the basics of hashtags on this blog in the past, but I’ll reiterate for those Facebook-only fans who may have ignored our previous Twitter-related tips.
A hashtag is a single keyword or phrase that communicates the context of the post, like a place or event name. The hash symbol "#" (maybe you called it the “pound” symbol back in your day) is used to note that the text following it is a hashtag. Anyone can make up a hashtag on the spot and start using it simply by typing a "#" and then a word after it with no spaces.
So, the really nifty part about hashtags is their functionality. Once you create a hashtag in Facebook, it becomes a hyperlink. When you or someone else clicks that hyperlink, you’ll see any (publicly available) post that ever has or ever will use that hashtag. You can also search for hashtags in the universal search bar at the top of the page, like this:
When you do, you’ll see all of the status updates that are tagged with #Indy, like this:
Alright, enough of that. Let’s have an example of how you can use them for something like an event, shall we?
6 Steps to Using a Facebook Hashtag for an Event
1. Decide on a hashtag
What is the event and how will your customers/patrons/clients use the hashtag? Figure out what your hashtag will be first. Your company is putting on an event, say an informal coffee meetup, and you want your customers to post social media updates about it. You can organize all those status updates and photos with a hashtag like #IndyCoffee. Make sure it’s unique to your event so that you don’t get random stuff in your feed when you search the hashtag.
2. Publicize the hashtag
In your social media announcements, emails, postcards, flyers... whatever you’re using to get the word out about your event, make sure to use the hashtag. Give your customers and users a heads-up that you want them to post updates and photos with this hashtag. “Hey everyone, can wait to see you at #IndyCoffee. Make sure to use the hashtag #IndyCoffee in your status or photos.”
3. Lead by example during the event
Take some photos of your event and post them to your Facebook page with the hashtag. “Thanks to the baristas for making #IndyCoffee tons of fun! My triple espresso caramel macchiato was soooo good!” Or maybe something more professional. Up to you.
4. Comment and be social
Search for your hashtag during the event and comment on other people’s updates or photos when they use the hashtag. “Hey, thanks for coming to #IndyCoffee today! Are you using Valencia on this photo?” [that’s an Instagram joke, it’s ok if you don’t get it.. let’s move on.]
5. Remind your customers during the event
If you make an announcement at the beginning of the event, remind your customers of the hashtag and how they can use it. Let them know that you can see everyone’s posts and pics after the event is over by using the hashtag.
6. After the event, search the hashtag to see who used it
This is the fun part. You can see all of the status updates and photos related to the event when you search the hashtag (IF people have tagged it and they don’t have super locked-down security on their posts). Anytime someone clicks on that hashtag when they see it, the hyperlinked tag will show them all of the related posts. Nice, right? This is especially handy now that it’s supported on mobile, because most of the people will be using their phones and mobile devices to post during an event.
That’s it. It’s pretty simple to use Facebook hashtags in your social marketing. And there are endlessly creative ways to use them.
(Photo source: That is a real coffee cup you can buy here.)
Have you seen any creative ways people or business pages are using Facebook hashtags? Share in the comments!