Facebook Jumps on the Hashtag Bandwagon

From some very humble beginnings, the hashtag has now become a global craze that nearly every social media is exploiting. Considering Facebook is one of the biggest social networks in the world, it’s been a bit slow catching on to the trend; but now they’re on to it, can Facebook help their users unlock its full potential? 
In 2011, one of the largest social networking sites, Twitter, had so much information passing through the system that the hashtag symbol was brought in as a way of organising it all. 
In June this year (better late than never), Facebook finally added the hashtag as a new feature to its site. A Facebook spokesperson explained the reasoning behind this addition:
“Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook to share their thoughts on big moments happening all around them. Whether it’s talking about a favourite television show, cheering on a hometown sports team or engaging with friends during a breaking news event—people on Facebook connect with their friends about what’s taking place all over the world. …
To bring these conversations more to the forefront, we will be rolling out a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people, and topics. As a first step, we are beginning to roll out hashtags on Facebook.”
The Facebook use of the hashtag sign is similar to that of other social networks – it turns topics and phrases into clickable links on your: personal timeline posts, fan page posts, comments, group posts or event posts. When you click on a hashtag link you are able to see a stream of posts which have the same or closely related word or phrase ‘hashtagged’. For instance, when you search #equality, you’ll also be able to see #lgbt and #pride.
Essentially ‘hashtagging’ is a way of shouting over a sea of whispers.
There are 5 key ways that Facebook hashtags can help your brand;
1. Expanding your reach – you can help people interested in niche topics find each other. 
2. Getting your brand heard – you can help your new product or concept catch on with your own special hashtag.
3. Multi-platform presence – being able to post to different platforms with the same message will save time and increase productivity.
4. Promoting your events – you can use special hashtags in you posts to promote events, even on different platforms. 
5. Potential leads and new fans – you will be able to meet like-minded individuals and target key audiences for your brand.
There was never an official news show or thesis paper on when, why and how to use the hashtag sign correctly though, so it’s no wonder that millions of people are misusing and abusing it. Posts like the one below are not a rarity on social media, but it can be infuriating for the people who are using the sign correctly. 
 “If #YOU had to #change in order to #succeed with #YOUR#social media efforts – could you?”
So to use the sign to its full potential, I’ve compiled a few dos and don’ts;
Do be selective with what you hashtag. Hashtagging generic words like #YOU and #YOUR, won’t bring up any useful posts and just will just make your message resemble spam. 
Don’t hashtag every possible interesting word in your message else the reader’s eyes will fail to acknowledge them and they’ll be pointless. 
Do test your hashtags. Before you put the character before that all important word, check out where the link takes you. A quick Facebook post (with the setting on ‘only me’) will allow you to check this without anyone seeing. 
Don’t worry about capitalisation. It doesn’t matter!
Do encourage your users to make their posts public so that you can expand your reach beyond their friendship group.
In an era when being on the ball is of the up most importance, it’s surprising that Facebook took so long to jump onto the bandwagon. The interesting bit, which only time will tell, will be how / whether Facebook can use the little symbol to its own benefit, to advance beyond those who jumped on this bandwagon before them.