Pond industry businesses looking to join in on highly specific conversations happening on Facebook now have an easy way to get there: the new Facebook. Essentially, Facebook allows anyone to categorize a conversation they’re having on the social network by using a simple hashtag (#) and keyword in their post.
Log onto Facebook and type #PondSupplies in Facebook’s search box, for example, and you’ll be presented with all the posts on Facebook coded with that hashtag/keyword.
Got something to say about the topic? Simply write a post that includes #PondSupplies, and voila: your company is now part of the conversation.
The new feature represents an incredible new opportunity for pond businesses, in that they can use Facebook hashtags to search for highly specific conversations happening on the social network — such as #PondSuppliesAustin — and then craft promotional posts highly pertinent to that topic.
Plus, pond businesses can start their own conversations by creating a post, and then coming up with their own hashtag/keyword combo for it, such as #ThisIsWhatISellAustin.
“Hashtags make it easy to find, follow and join online conversations about the topics that you care about,” says Lauren Thomas, campaign manager of Digital Sherpa, a Web marketing firm.
Hashtags were popularized by Twitter, which in a few years has risen from obscurity to one of the most active and influential social networks on the Web. Currently, there are countless conversations occurring on Twitter, all neatly organized with the hashtag/keyword system that Facebook has now adopted.
The major difference between the two is that Facebook posts coded with hashtags are not, as they are on Twitter, limited to 140 characters. Indeed, Facebook currently allows posts to be 63,206 characters in length, which includes any images. This represents a major advantage for Facebook, especially among the significant percentage of Web users who are more comfortable expressing themselves using much more than the stingy 140-character splurge of text allowed by Twitter.
Even better: Facebook is also allowing businesses to add hashtags to the ads they run on Facebook. So if you include #DiscountPondSupplies in your Facebook ad, and someone on Facebook is searching for it, they’ll be presented with your ad in Facebook search results.
“This will allow advertisers to target more active fans who are actively discussing something, rather than just belonging to a grouping or having liked a certain page at some point in the past,” says Ben Harper, social data and insight manager at Zazzle, a Web marketing agency.
Adds Karyn with a Y, a blogger for Click By Click Social Media, a social media marketing agency: “By adding a hashtag to your post you are making it viewable for anyone who searches for that subject — even if they aren’t a fan of your page or already connected with you. This gives you the opportunity to access a whole new audience, and you know they are interested in your topic because they have searched for it.”
Once you get the hang of using hashtags on Facebook, you’ll also be able to leverage the same concept on other social
networks that use hashtags to organize conversations, including Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, Orkut, Diaspora, Tout, FriendFeed, Flickr, Vine and Gawker.
Here are some best practices for hashtag use on Facebook and other social networks, as recommended by social media specialists:
■ Get a quick overview on hashtags: The free “Quick Start Guide to Hashtags” offers an excellent strategy for getting the most promotional benefit from hashtags. Visit http://www.hashtags.org/quick-start.
■ Identify which hashtags work best: By using Facebook’s free analytics tool, Insights, you’ll be able to track which hashtags are most effective. Simply click on the “Reach” column in Insights and study which posts are getting the highest “reach,” or reads.
■ Use hashtags for branding and selling: You can assign a hashtag to describe your entire pond business presence on Facebook, or a specific product or service.
■ Piggyback on trending Facebook hashtags: Facebook now includes a “Trending” box in the upper right corner of your Facebook page, featuring links to topics and hashtags that are trending on the social network. Find a way to piggyback your pond business on a trending topic, and your post could be seen by hundreds — or even millions.
■ Standardize a hashtag across all networks: You can use the same hashtag/ keyword for your pond product or service on all the social networks you use to promote (i.e., Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter).
■ Use both capitalization and lowercase for hashtag phrases: Don’t use #thisisnoteasytoread. Instead use #ThisIsMuchEasierToRead.
■ Don’t forget the photos. Any Facebook post — including those with photos — can be coded with a hashtag. Don’t forget to include a photo with your post, if at all possible.
■ Use hashtags anywhere appropriate in a post: Facebook users often use hashtags at the close of a post, but you can also insert a hashtag in the middle of a #sentence if the placement seems right to you.
■ Avoid special characters: Generally speaking, special characters ($%^&) don’t work with hashtags.
■ Don’t spam: Sure, it’s tempting to promote your pond business by including the hashtag #LadyGaga in your promotional post. But in the end, you’ll most likely only tick off a bunch of Lady Gaga fans, and perhaps have to wipe a bunch of glitter off your store windows the next day.
■ Bring in a pro: Hashtags.org offers a paid analytics service that continually tracks the most popular hashtags trending on Twitter. For maximum exposure, pond industry businesses can sign up for hashtag analytics on hashtags.org, which shows the most popular hashtags. By choosing hashtags that are already trending, users who are interested in specific subjects, particularly locally focused and relevant users, will find a company’s social content much easier. Visit http://www.hashtags.org/trending-on-twitter.