Facebook hashtags could prove to be the savior of Graph Search, the recently launched Facebook search feature.
Graph Search does what it promises—returns search results based on the social graphs of your Facebook friends, fans and followers. This means you tend to see search results only for those friends and businesses with whom you are already closely aligned.
If you use Facebook for outreach and marketing, the new hashtag feature will extend your reach dramatically. This will create both risks and rewards, so choose your hashtags with care.
1. Avoid desperation marketing.
I’ve already noticed Facebook posts that include a rash of hashtags. As expected, the inevitable hashtag spam has begun. We don’t see this with Twitter hashtags because the 140-character limit keeps it in check.
This is just one more example of desperation marketing. We are already familiar with its many forms, including:
- Sensationalized headlines.
- Content in all caps and with excessive exclamation points.
- Controversial and false claims.
Add a truckload of hashtags and you have a real mess that is sure to annoy those you presumably most want to engage. Smart businesses know desperation marketing only repels potential buyers.
When you use dozens of hashtags, you tell the Facebook search engine that your post has no focus; all you do is spam your friends and fans. Don’t do it.
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2. Use hashtags as keyword tags.
Given that Facebook search’s effectiveness is marginal at best, hashtags can be a useful way to track your content. However, it won’t work if you use broad keyword phrases such as #smallbusiness.
A broad keyword tag or hashtag is the same as no hashtag at all. As we all know, “one size fits all” means it doesn’t fit anyone well.
Use a hashtag that is personal to you, such as your business name. A hashtag I’ve been using lately is #builtinsocial, which is the title of my new book. When I search for #builtinsocial, I’m confident the results I receive will, for the most part, be mine and mine only. That is your objective.
Think of your hashtag as a link to you, your business or one of its products or services. It has to be specific.
Also consider that broad category hashtags aggregate your content with that of everyone else who uses them (to the extent that your privacy settings allow). This will likely align you with hashtag spammers, and you don’t want that.
3. Be specific.
Mass marketing may work well for big consumer brands, but not for a small, local business.
If you want to use hashtags well, use them to create alignment with a highly targeted group. This is why location hashtags will be especially popular for small, local businesses.
Think of your hashtags as the language of your desired community. If there are specific words or phrases that speak to your community, those words as hashtags will rise to the surface in Facebook conversations.
You can also coin your own hashtag keywords and use them to brand your business.
Apply these three hashtag tips to your Facebook marketing to notice favorable results.
The discussion on this topic is raging on Facebook. Thus far, we’ve confirmed hashtags work on posts, photos and some comments, but not all. We will not know all the facts until Facebook completely rolls out hashtags. Also, your privacy settings prevail. Your hashtags will aggregate content within your sphere of influence to other content using the same tag.
Jeff Korhan, MBA, helps mainstream small businesses create exceptional customer experiences that accelerate business growth. A version of this article originally appeared on JeffKorhan.com.