Avid readers of these pages were tipped off to Facebook incorporating hashtags well before the social media giant finally made the move. Well, they are finally active and just about two weeks or so ago they were implemented in the iOS Facebook app.
While Facebook hashtags are still in their infancy, they offer potential for significant payoffs in three basic areas:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Simplifying promotional efforts
- Understanding customers
We’ll take just a few moments hashing (sorry) these out. These three advantages relate to and interconnect somewhat with each other, so today instead of walking a straight path; we’re going to be linking together a chain of ideas.
I just did a Facebook search for #Applebee and #Applebees. It turns out that the corporate arm of the restaurant chain – although it has almost 4.5 million “likes” and right now more than 160,000 people are talking about it – has never used its logical brand hashtags.
Certainly, Applebee’s would love Facebook users to visit the restaurant’s page and perhaps comment on the big photo of their “Cowboy Burger” that they have posted. However, navigating to their page requires keyboarding. Had they said #Applebee’s new Cowboy Burger they would have immediately given Facebook users a “clickable” path to current posts about Applebee’s, including the photo of their succulent new burger.
When Jane Doe in Anywhere USA posts, “Had a great waitress at #Applebee’s last night,” users who click on the hashtag would likely see the restaurant’s posts as well. As Facebook users – and Applebee’s customers – get more tuned into using hashtags, the company is essentially unleashing hoards of promoters parading around in virtual sandwich boards. And this is where brand awareness links to our next topic.
Advertising, marketing and promotions are all about “spreading the word” and with Facebook hashtags you have a very powerful tool that can dramatically increase your reach. If you have an interesting post, photo, or perhaps a contest of some kind, be sure to associate it with a hashtag. Make it easy for others to tell people about what you have going on.
Don’t we all lust for the web photo, video or post that goes viral and gives us our 15-minutes of fame? Hashtags are a step in that direction. And while they probably won’t get you 100,000 new fans on your Facebook page, they will amp up your acquisition rate if used well.
Associating a small number of hashtags with your business gives you the ability to focus, control and judge the effectiveness of promotional efforts quite easily and this is where we link to our final advantage of Facebook hashtags.
Understand Your Customers
Joe, proprietor of Joe’s Widgets, is making great use of #joeswidgets on Facebook. He has seen sales surge with the implementation of #bogowidgetfriday, but also his store’s general hashtag has become a clearing house for customer feedback and recommendations.
I’m all for making things simple and being able to take the pulse of customers on one Facebook page is a social media marriage made in heaven. How valuable is it to hear what customers are saying about you when you’re out of the room? A hashtag of your brand makes it possible.
As I said at the top, Facebook hashtags are still the new kid on the block. And while they will eventually develop into their own beast, some of the advice that applies to Twitter also applies on Facebook, with the number one rule being: Don’t abuse hashtags.
I would also advise you to strictly limit the number of Facebook hashtags you use and spend some time planning them and developing your strategy before you commit to their use.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/melenita/9404358648 “Hashtags on Facebook,” © 2013 Maria Elena, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.