How Brands Can Leverage Facebook Hashtags

By Charlie Balk Social networks continue to look and feel more and more alike, "stealing" the best features and components of competitors. So it was no big surprise when Facebook recently released hashtag search capability to its ever-growing list of features. Since most personal pages remain private, there isn't much room (yet, anyway) for hashtags to take a life of their own in the way they have on Twitter.

According to one study, 56 of the top 100 brands on Facebook posted a hashtag between June 12 and June 24. So: What does the Facebook hashtag mean for brands? And what should brands be doing to leverage them? To answer these questions, let's look at how some of these top brands are using hashtags on Facebook.

Use #Hashtags for Campaigns and Contests:

Right now, the strongest power of the Facebook hashtag is its ability to link cross-platform campaigns and contests. The below post is from the Adidas #standtogether campaign in conjunction with the British and Irish Lions Rugby team. Cheerio.

Use #Hashtags to Increase Post Reach:

This is a dangerous one for two reasons: 1) Hashtags can be seen as obnoxious (some folks are on Facebook to avoid hashtags) and spammy if too many are used; 2) While increasing reach, a hashtag can result in a click away from your page or the link in your post. Advice: Balance the value of the hashtag's ability to extend reach with the Facebook hashtag's many potential pitfalls.

This post from ESPN shows a Facebook hashtag being done right. ESPN is now part of the conversation surrounding the #Wimbledon event as it happens, without looking tactless or drawing attention away from any particular link. I had to read this post twice before even noticing the hashtag, and that's how it should be.

Use #Hashtags to Add Value:

The phenomenon of hashtag jokes won't be a part of the Facebook experience just yet--or possibly ever. But that doesn't mean that they can't be used in a similar fashion. #TheFactIs saying something with a hashtag can have a different meaning than without one, so look for opportunities to use hashtags--or even make them up--the same way you do on Twitter. You can't deny that #FreshFathers has a different ring to it than Fresh Fathers. Double points for cross-platform contest, here from KFC.

Use #Hashtags to Show You're Social Media Savvy:

As with all these examples, keep your brand's voice in consideration when deciding if/when to use Facebook hashtags. But, just like hopping on Vine as soon as it came out, using hashtags on Facebook right off the bat can earn a brand credit from consumers. Obligatory Red Bull mention...

But, as with all of these examples, proceed with caution...

Use #Hashtags to Monitor:

A big part of being involved in the conversation is listening. Facebook has always been a weaker tool than Twitter for finding conversations and complaints that weren't sent directly to brands, but hashtags can make monitoring easier.

Note that Comcast doesn't appear to have begun monitoring hashtags on Facebook, but they might want to start.

Now it's your turn: What cool stuff have you seen brands doing on Facebook using hashtags? What should brands be doing differently? And what's the future of hashtags on Facebook? Click here and here for two more Likeable blogs about hashtags on Facebook.