Facebook’s new hashtag ability is a marketing boon.

This week associate Adam Torkildson and I had the chance to talk about our favorite topic — PR — with a company that licenses proprietary equipment to individuals who use the product to create their own regional business. Some 30 of the merchant partners had come together to attend the company’s summit event in Salt Lake.

Among the group, some are currently successfully at PR; others are still at square one. Guess which question dominated our discussion? Hashtags.

Hashtags are Ubiquitous

Check out the results from this recent survey by ad agency RadiumOne. Among 494 participants:

  • 58 percent of respondents utilize hashtags on a regular basis, and 71 percent of regular hashtag users do so from their mobile devices
  • 43 percent of respondents think hashtags are useful and 34% use them to search/follow categories and brands of personal interest
  • 51 percent of respondents would share hashtags more often if they knew advertisers awarded discounts for sharing product based hashtags
  • 41 percent of respondents use hashtags to communicate personal ideas and feelings

In all, more than 70 percent of consumers favor hashtags on mobile devices and nearly half are motivated to explore new content when hashtags are present.

Facebook Hashtags can expose your business to an entirely new audience

Facebook Graph Searches were somewhat useful for finding results among the people and businesses you’re already connected with.  However, hashtags open an entirely new opportunity for your page or your relevant material to be exposed to the full community of Facebook users. So by tagging your page and your resource material with #sanitation or #essentialoils, for example, users who’d have never “liked” your page or even known you existed will find you when the interest or need has occurred.

Hashtags are good for campaigns or promotions

Commonplace searches such as #tech or #ecommerce aren’t unique or compelling and will likely produce hundreds of unrelated results.  It’s a good idea to test any term you’re thinking of by taking a look in advance at the results it produces. Is it a popular search term? Does the other results it produces serve your purposes well?

For example, a consumer brand who adopted a hashtag strategy around #notguilty as a clever way to draw attention to its low-calorie food was dismayed to find its search results in the midst of an ongoing dialogue about a grisly murder.  But campaigns such as Young & Rubicam’s #advertisingis or Charmin’s #tweetfromtheseat are memorable, humorous, and suggest a call to action within the space of a single phrase.

However, use them with care

Indiscriminate use of hashtags, especially on Facebook, makes your posts look like a “visual Tommy gun” remarked social media strategist Mark Mitchell this week in a post for Social Media Today.  Overusing hashtags is the social media equivalent of spam. Hashtags scattered through a statement appear promotional and off-putting, whereas one or two well-chosen tags at the end of a statement are viewed as a welcome help or a clever and humorous call to action. Additionally, the overuse of hashtags will likely be restricted by Facebook to avoid overuse and abuse.

Does your company have a hashtag strategy? And in particular, have you taken advantage of the opportunity to leverage Facebook’s hashtag capabilities yet? If not, what’s stopping you?
Author: Cheryl Conner | Google+

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