Update – Hashtag functionality is rolling out to Facebook users as of June 11th. But we’re keeping the meme – because we like it.
Hashtags have become increasingly popular on social media sites. Maybe too popular. “Stop The OverUse of Hashtags” and “I Hate Hashtags” are two of the many Facebook pages created by annoyed fans. It feels as though Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest users alike need a reminder on the purpose of hashtags.
This raises the questions: To hash or not to hash? Should businesses stop using hashtags altogether? What’s an appropriate use of hashtags? What makes a good hashtag?
What is a Hashtag?
Hashtags are words or phrases that begin with the # sign (example: #flowers). They can be a useful tool for marking keywords and topics. How do they work?
Using hashtags correctly will boost your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which impacts your brand’s visibility in search engines. SEO is crucial for businesses to grow their audience, sell their products and increase their brand influence. Hashtags used appropriately will isolate keywords or topics allowing fans and potential clients find your business quickly.
Facebook and Hashtags
Currently, hashtags do absolutely nothing to increase visibility on Facebook. What they will do, is increase the odds of you annoying your fans. Unlike Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, which use hashtags as a filing system, Facebook hashtags only clutter your updates and make you look as if you don’t understand the platform. One caveat: Some use them ironically as a way to tell you how they feel – ie., “Big day today #hategoingtothedentist”. These work better when used sparingly!
You may have noticed I started that paragraph with the word “currently.” A few weeks back, The Blog Herald announced that Facebook is preparing to introduce hashtag support for wall posts. It could be another way for businesses to increase the visibility of their updates, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Until then, stop the overuse of hashtags on Facebook! Update – functionality is rolling out, but you still might be annoying people who don’t have it yet! Also, there has been some pushback on hashtags on Facebook, so if you decide to use them, we suggest you use them sparingly.
How to Effectively Use Hashtags?
- Keep it Simple! Keywords make the most effective hashtags. Brainstorming keywords is not always as simple as it sounds. Here at Scalable, Alisa wrote a great post on the dos and don’ts of keywords. One of her top tips: Put yourself in the customers shoes. What keywords might you search for if you were looking for your company’s products or services? Use these as keywords.
- #Guardagainstjoininggwords. See how confusing that was? Many times users join together keywords that have little to no relation to the subject. The result? You’ve just killed your SEO and confused your audience. There are two exceptions to this. When the words naturally go together (#greeneggsandham) or when using humor (#iamsooverhashtags) to reach your audience.
- Don’t abbreviate. When running a search we rarely use abbreviations. For instance, if you want to search for Facebook you wouldn’t type FB, so go ahead and use “#Facebook”. Using hashtag abbreviations will limit your visibility IF the customer even finds the tag.
- Hashtag sparingly. A good rule of thumb is never use more than 3 hashtags at any given time. If you feel you have more than 3 keywords that need to be included, try incorporating them in multiple tweets, photos or pin descriptions. Doing so will help to avoid overwhelming fans, while still utilizing your keywords.
Appropriately used hashtags are a great way to increase your visibility and market your brand. Remember to keep hashtags simple, avoid using them on Facebook, use keywords and set a limit of three hashtags per social media interaction. Following these rules will ensure your business engaged fans and increased visibility.
Feel a bit lost when it comes to promoting your business with social media? We can help! Contact us for a free review of your current efforts, and suggestions that you can use today.