If you’re a Twitter user, then you’re no stranger to the hashtag (#). But until last month, if you hung out primarily in the wonderful world of Facebook, you probably don’t know what a hashtag is, why people would dream of using, or even HOW to use one. Though certain people have been erroneously using hashtags on Facebook for months (hi Dragon Lady!), most people have not.
The hashtag, or #, is used to designate a search term, or a trending topic. In June, Facebook rolled out the use of hashtags to a small percentage of users to be given to all users as time goes on. The hashtags are not available yet on mobile, but this will also change.
How to use it
Now that you know what a hashtag is physically and what it’s supposed to stand for, how do you use it?
- 1. #wordswithoutspacesorsymbols
Put the hashtag first, followed by a word or phrase, including numbers. Do not include spaces or symbols, as they break the hashtag.
- 2. #CapitalizingInitialLettersHelps
While using phrases with all lower-case letters is acceptable, if you have a long phrase, it is best to “break it up” (so to speak) with initial caps.
- 3. #ShorterIsBetter
Some of the most popular hashtags are very short, in great part because they originated on Twitter, which has a 140-character limit per tweet – and hastags are included. For instance, #London2012 was immensely popular during the Olympics, and is still getting mileage. #NBAFinals were popular several weeks ago while those games were being played.
When to use it
There’s no technical right or wrong time to use one, but some popular examples include:
- 1. Watching TV Shows
You’ll often see at the bottom of the screen during primetime TV shows a hashtag encouraging you to chime in your thoughts on social media. #NCIS #TheVoice and others all have hashtags to encourage you to share your thoughts on the episode.
- 2. Show Support
Show your support of a cause, such as Relay For Life, by using a hashtag in your status update. Often, in your registration materials you’ll see what hashtags they’re encouraging you to use, but if not, it’s always good to keep it simple. #WhyIRelay #RelayForLife #RelayForLife2013
- 3. Identify Locations
If you’re traveling and want to post a photo, a hashtag is a great identifier. #GrandCanyon #Alhambra
- 4. Taking Part in Events
If you’re participating in events, using a hashtag is a great way to show that. For instance, Red Sage used the new feature in our post about Small Business Week, #SBW2013.
To see what others are saying about the topic, I then clicked on the blue hyperlink of #SBW2013. The photo below is just a small sample of the large list of results I got:
Now you know when and how to use hashtags, but there are a couple more things to do before you actually start using them.
Check your privacy settings
Hashtags will make your status updates more visible across Facebook, so we recommend checking to see who your status updates are shared with. Beneath the status update box is a toggle for you to select who you’d like to share your posts with. Here’s what it looks like:
You have the option to share your post with the public, your friends, just yourself (which makes no sense for a social media site) or custom – meaning you can exclude friends or create lists of friends with whom to share it.
Consider putting your friends and family into their own lists and avoiding hashtags that might offend them (a good practice all around, anyway).
Review old posts with hashtags
If you happened to be one of those people who used hashtags on Facebook before they had any meaning, you should consider reviewing them now, as the hashtags will become clickable links when everyone gets the hashtag rollout. Make sure none of those posts are offensive – again, a good practice all around.
Remember that it will take awhile before everyone has hashtags, so there may still be some confusion as people start to get used to this new rollout. As always in social media, the goal is to make people more social and increase conversations. Used correctly, they should do just that.