Social media strategy can be challenging if you feel that you don't understand how to use mechanisms that can help to get you noticed for the right reasons by the right audience. With the recent Facebook hashtag announcement, more and more business marketers will be trying to figure out the best practices for using hashtags. It's a good thing to learn this now, because inappropriate use of hashtags can result in suspension, unfollows, bad publicity or more. One of the most frequent mistakes I see among social network newbies is the misuse of the hashtag (#) symbol.
Since abusing the use of hashtags can suspend your account on most social media services, what is the appropriate protocol and best practices for hashtags in social media.
First, why use a hashtag?
- Using the hashtag symbol (#) as part of a keyword or key phrase helps to categorize information to come up in searches
- In Twitter, clicking on a #keyword will show other tweets using that same #keyword.
- The hashtag phrase can be anywhere in a tweet. Personally, I like to work them in with the phrase rather than lump them at the end, but I've done both.
- Hashtags done well can become Trending Topics. Using trending topics to create a #hashtag can work against you. This is a way that spammers try to get their junk to be visible.
- Know that if you use a hastag on a public account, your tweet will be searchable by that hashtag.
- #spamming #hashtags is not #bestpractices. Don't over tag, and try to keep tags to no more than two per tweet.
- Use relevant hashtags - to the content of the tweet. Otherwise that's considered spammy and can get your account banned.
How do people use hashtags incorrectly?
- Too many hashtags
- Irrelevant hashtags
- Using trending topics for unrelated content
- Using a hashtag to request to be followed
- Using a trending hashtag to advertise
So now that you know more about Hashtags and how they are used, it may make sense that Facebook recently announced adding hashtags to their filters. What does this do? With the addition of Instagram, Facebook posts now have hashtags - hashtags have been greatly utilized on Instagram, however, within Facebook, they are not searchable. With this change, Facebook hashtags may function similarly to the way hashtags function on other social networks.
What does this mean for business and social media marketing? Brands will be able to determine how their hashtag is used, and can promote content using hashtags. The potential is enormous.
A simple way to get started with hashtags is with the Twitter #FF hashtag. Using #FF or #FollowFriday is a way to acknowledge the Twitter luminaries that you may recommend to others. The appropriate way to do this is to mention the person's handle (@Sunswept) and a nice comment about why you are recommending others follow that person.
The lazy way to use #FF is to cluster a bunch of people together with a recommendation that they be followed using the #FF or #FollowFriday tags. I've seen and used both, but recommend the first way because it's much more personal and more likely to be remembered by the flattered recipient.
What do you think? Do you use hashtags, and if so, how do you use them? What do you think the hashtags will mean for brands using Facebook for marketing?