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Hashtags on Facebook

After a recent episode of the Game of Thrones series on HBO generated 1.5 million mentions on Facebook, it seems almost a perfect time for the social network to roll out hashtags across the board following in the footsteps of Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest. This new introduction will allow users, businesses and brands to interact and track conversations (providing they are made by public pages) and get an idea of the bigger conversational-picture.

Facebook’s Greg Lindley wrote:

“Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook to share their thoughts on big moments happening all around them. To date, there has not been a simple way to see the larger view of what’s happening or what people are talking about.”

What does this mean for business? How will this impact social sales and marketing strategies? Codastar investigates.

“Why do you think Facebook have introduced hashtags?

It was inevitable that Facebook would jump on board with hashtags at some point. Practically all of the social platforms around today use hashtags as a way to express opinions and thoughts on a variety of subjects. Facebook is a key player in the social-sphere, so by “keeping up with the Jones” they have ensured that the data and information created by their users can be sourced, tracked and examined on a large scale.

“On a more technical level, how will this new addition work from a ‘back office’ point of view?”

Previously, Facebook’s search function was purely based on links and groups. When searching for ‘likes’ the whole process was rather linear. In line with the introduction of hashtags (and in line ready for other changes and additions in the future as implied by Facebook), Facebook have introduced “Facebook Graph Search”.

Facebook Graph Search is an improved search function on the network focusing on “semantics”, using an algorithm to find information using natural language from within a user’s network of friends. It searches on “intended meaning”, previously using keywords such as “bands” or “music” and now using full sentences such as “bands my friends like” or “music my friends enjoy”.  The use of a more personalised search engine allows more tailored results, based on your friends, shared interests, posts, updates… everything.

By adapting their search function to follow along similar lines to ‘Google Social Search (search results personalised if signed into your Google account) it creates a multi dimensional website that expands beyond just your timeline and news feed. It creates a unique individual Facebook entity.

“How might it aid brand’s sales?”

Opinion seems to be pretty divided when it comes to “social sales”. However it has become more and more apparent that social media is used as a forum for conversation, not one for a “SELL SELL SELL!” attitude.

That being said, it adds a new level to that conversation. By using unique hashtags and exploring topics across all the social networks you can tap into what customers (new and existing) are really interested in.

It is important for brands to remember that social networks are a way to humanize their image. Have a peak behind the curtain, behind the scenes. Its a way of showing there are people that love their jobs, have opinions on current events and holidays. By allowing brands to join into that added depth of conversation (should it be conducted correctly) can only serve to be a fantastic addition.

“You mention the phrase ‘cross platform engagement’. How is this possible? How is this enabled and implemented by a simple hashag by Facebook/users?”

Whilst hashtags were once viewed as a little annoying and unnecessary, it has evolved fairly rapidly since their initial creation and are now used as a really valuable tool for social users and marketers alike. The use of the hashtag provided most of the functionality that made Twitter the platform of immediacy and virality.

Using Twitter as the initial example, by inclusion of a hashtag users could track news stories, topics, conversations – however big or small. Whether its a debate held by a local group or a ‘favourite flavour’ campaign by a food corporation.

Now, lets take this a step further. With the inclusion of other social networks, and now Facebook too, the effect has amplified ten fold. As we mentioned above, you can now use hashtags as part of Graph Search as a means of sourcing information on your chosen subject/interest. However there is another factor that is incredibly important.

This additional contribution to Facebook is a two-fold; not only increasing user’s ability to source and create the information they choose, but the knock on affect of such is that these Facebook interactions will attribute to hashtags across all platforms. For example, by creating a unique hashtag on Facebook, such as “#CodastarChatsHashtags – this can be tracked, viewed, and used on every other site, with all the information gather-able and able to be analysed much simpler than before.

With this in mine, cross platform engagement has now never been easier, especially considering the rise in use of social tools such as Hootsuite. Previously businesses had to create a variety of campaigns and posts, which while this to a point is still necessary – using one hashtag on all posts creates consistency and the appearance of “one voice” across social networks.

“What implications could it have for the way brands use Facebook?”

When it comes to social marketing, brands needs to really step up their game. The lines between social platforms are far more blurred than they once were; with hashtags on multiple platforms and Facebook ‘apps/tabs’ allowing other social networks to be integrated on site. This is a positive step, and will require brands to work harder AND smarter, as this new look for social networks will allow cross-platform engagement to occur much more readily.

Ultimately, how popular will it be with users?

It will undoubtedly be popular, especially for those that are already engaging using hashtags on other networks (Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram). However, for those users that are only Facebook-based there will be a learning curve. With this, trending topics and hashtag use may be a little “noisy” at first, but the key is to stick with it, let people find their groove.

There will be a few camps that are perhaps sticklers for the “old Facebook” – with any change there are always some that prefer it the way it was (especially as it could be viewed as another form of forced advertising) – but the pro’s definitely way outweigh the cons. The ease of information finding, the discussion about the things you love, that interest you, this really adds a new personal dimension to the network .

“Are there any negatives connotations for businesses and users to look out for?”

When it comes to using hashtags, a lot of companies over “stuff” their posts with hashtags, and use them incorrectly. For example, we have seen an eaterie in London using hashtags for each food group (#chips #burgers #sandwiches) for lunch promotions, rather than focusing on the promotion itself (for example #londonlunchdeals). It is important to remember how hashtags are used, and how to use them effectively. With hashtags on almost every social site now, find your business a unique hook, a way of communicating the correct information and use that to encourage cross platform engagement. It should not be used as a way of increasing sales, but more importantly increasing engagement – this softer approach is suited to social, especially as social media is increasingly seen as a platform for “customer service”.

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