It's official! Clickable Facebook hashtags are now functional to a small percentage of Facebook users and will be opened up to everyone on the network in the near future. Facebook's decision to make hashtags functional closely follows the univeral click culture of other popular features already offered by Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest. In case you are unfamiliar, a hashtag is a word or phrase prefixed with a number "#" symbol. Hashtags essentially provide a way of grouping messages and trending topics on social media. Through hashtags, one can search given keywords or phrases and learn about what other people are saying about the word or phrase.
Even though people have already been using hashtags on Facebook, the social giant is now making it possible for the hashtags to serve as clickthroughs to find feeds of discussions about a given topic of interest. For example, if you type the hashtag "#" before "Florida" as in #Florida, the word Florida will turn into a clickable link through which you can click and find posts about Florida. The overall idea is to make it quick and easy for Facebook users to find out what other users are saying about topics important them.
How to create a Facebook hashtag:
Anyone can make any word or phrase into a hashtag. You simply need to add a # symbol before the word or phrase. If you are using your PC, a blue box/shading will appear over the tag, click post. If you are using a Phone, the blue highlight will appear after you post your status or comment. In both cases, the tag will appear bolded within your comment or status update. There is no real set of rules for choosing a word or phrase for hashtags, but it is important to choose relatively short words or phrases that identify with the topic you are discussing. This makes your hashtags relevant, easily searchable and organised. You will find some hashtags to be super simple and obvious while others are much more unique and creative.
How to use your Facebook hashtag:
After updating your status or comment with a hashtag, you can click on your tags to find out who else is using the same phrase or word and what they are saying. If for instance you click on #Florida, a list of other people's posts will appear, some of whom you know, some not. You can go ahead and "Follow" such feeds to track future updates and discussions of the same. From the status bar, you can set the same hashtag to be automatically added to you future status updates. It is also important to note that any hashtags you use on other social networks that are connected to your Facebook page will automatically be functional and searchable on Facebook.
Searching for hashtags
Facebook will continuously track hashtags on all words, phrases and topics. This means the feed will always be available even if you have not used the tags on your status updates before. To search a hashtag, simply type it in the search box, e.g. #Pizza, and click the option labelled Hashtags. This option opens the same feed of related posts and comments as it would if clicked via your post.
Facebook hashtag tips for marketers:
Incorporate branded or industry keywords
When creating a new hashtag, make it unique and original, it should not be in use by somebody else.
Promote your hashtag by incorporating it into other channels of marketing such as landing pages, email, other social networks and so on.
Incorporate the hashtags in your facebook ads.
Do not hijack popular hashtags that are irrelevant to your content
Keep it short
Double check to see that your hashtag posts are public.
Don't go hashtag crazy! Remember all the best practices of Facebook marketing still apply such as sharing quality, relevant content and impactful images.
Prior to adding the hashtag functionality, Facebook didn't really offer an easy way to discover the bigger picture conversations and discussions taking place across the network. In my opinion this is a big step in the right direction to make Facebook commentary more searchable and bring the public discussions more to the forefront.
Hopefully this information will help you be prepared for the introduction of Facebook hashtags and get you thinking about ways you can use them build and foster more conversations around both your personal andn business objectives.