A few weeks ago, you probably heard this loud whooshing sound or a loud excited yell travel across the country followed by seeing this on Facebook: #Yay! #Hashtags #Whatdotheymean? #These aredumb, #etc. The excited sound came from digital marketers who have been waiting for Facebook to give up its “I’m Too Important” attitude and allow for #hashtags on its platform. Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and even Facebook-owned Instagram had these clever tools. It was time for Facebook to grow-up.
But, there is a lot of confusion about the #hashtag and its purpose and necessity. Plain and simple, a #hashtag or pound sign is just a code to allow the word after it to be found in a search more easily. If I am promoting something in #Madison and want to get my post seen by others who are looking for things to do in #Madison, I will put the hashtag in front of the word #Madison. On Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram, you would then click on that word and would be able to see what everyone else is saying about the subject: MADISON. Go ahead on your Facebook feed and click on that highlighted word and see what others are saying.
Now, some of the hashtagged words or phrases don’t mean anything and when you click on them, they are only being used by that person. While funny, it doesn’t do anything for search and for getting found in a conversation. But, brands and digital marketers love them because it allows us to build brand campaigns around a searchable phrase we choose and it helps us monitor brand discussion on the internet. You see the hashtags all the time for sporting events or bands and when you go search that term you just saw on TV or heard on the radio, you will find thousands of people talking about it! For example, WJJO Band Camp is using #JJOBandcamp for the August 17th event. We can monitor people interested in Band Camp who use that hashtag and then we can curate their content to share with others. During the event itself, we will be able to share photos and status updates others post if they use #JJOBandcamp with their posts.
Don’t be afraid of hashtags…and don’t go overboard using them. The best advice is to see what others are posting about and, if you want to get involved in that conversation, use the #hashtag!