Hashtags: Use Them. Don’t Abuse Them.

6a00d83452b15969e2019103899b98970cFacebook hashtags are real. Last week the company introduced a feature that enables users to use the # symbol to add context to their posts and make those posts searchable on the network. Facebook is the last of the four mainstream social networks – Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ being the other three – to join the hashtag party.

For some, this may look like a move to compete against Twitter. I happen to see it as a positive thing for content creators and audiences (if content creators put strategy first and don’t overdo it). Below are quick pros/cons of hashtags as well as two strategic opportunities to seize if your business is leveraging social media as part of its integrated communications strategy, which it should be.

Hashtag Pros:

  • For content creators, consistency will not only make it easier to draft copy for various social media channels but it also makes it possible to track campaigns across those platforms and report on the conversations that take place.
  • Using topic or industry hashtags (like #socialmedia when you share this post with your social networks) within your posts can help you reach and engage with new audiences that may not be following you but are following certain conversations.
  • Twitter allows brands to use sponsored tweets in order to stand out in hashtag conversations and I don’t doubt that Facebook will extend that service to brands soon too. If you don’t already, you may want to set aside a bit of budget to pay to trend.
  • Google+ now automatically adds relevant hashtags to posts in order to add context to its search engine, among other things. Hashtags across all social networks will play a bigger role in SEO as we move forward.

Hashtag Cons:

  • #HashtagsLikeThisOneThatOnlyMakeNoise or #posts #like #this #one #that #also #make #noise. Always remember your strategy. If your blog post is about Facebook hashtags, do a bit of research to identify which hashtags are already in use. If people on Facebook don’t use the #Facebook hashtag, then don’t be redundant and hashtag the term people are actually talking about. It may even be #socialmedia, and you didn’t even know.

Opportunities for companies using social media:

Thought Leadership. Hashtags can be a great ally when working towards building thought leadership for a company spokesperson. Think of it as SEO and work with them to ensure their tweets and posts consistently include relevant hashtags. Slowly but surely, you will see their content climb up the list of results on Twitter, Facebook Search and elsewhere.

Consider sitting down with your spokesperson and discussing their interest and areas of expertise, build a set of key words that are associated with those topics, search for associated hashtags, then develop plans to help them become more active in those conversations.

Industry Leadership. Influencers use hashtags to talk about industry trends to make sure their audience understands the context of their posts and to make sure their followers can search the hashtag for others’ thoughts on the matter, including their own. A sure way to turn off influencers and inhibit the development of your industry leadership, is using branded hashtags that are best suited for events or promotional campaigns where engagement, relationships and two-way conversations are not the primary objectives.

The first step for brands looking to be part of social conversations should be to listen, identify hashtags used by influencers on topics that are relevant to their business, and then contribute to those conversations with content and commentary of their own.

For example, when I wrote a post about metrics I didn’t share it on Twitter with the hashtag #LPPmetricsrule. I did my due diligence, identified the #measurePRhashtag where conversations are already taking place, contributed my two cents, and subsequently engaged with peers on the subject.

Has your business used hashtags for events? Twitter chats? Industry conversations? What did you learn about how the people of social media use and respond to them?


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