Facebook Has Hashtags! What This Means for Your Government Org

If your government organization is one of the many already using Twitter, you are already familiar with the power your organization can harness through hashtags. Hashtags are identifiers that turn otherwise disparate phrases into searchable trends, like #sotu for “State of the Union.” They enable new search capabilities by letting users “discover” messages through similar users and themes.

Facebook hashtags1Hashtags encourage people who are not already following you to participate in the conversation and gain an entry point to your information and breaking news. Twitter was the original platform to offer hashtags as an innovative way to connect content and structure conversations, but other platforms like Instagram have jumped on the bandwagon.

Facebook is the latest platform to jump in the game, debuting hashtags in June in order to keep up with Twitter. And you should start using Facebook hashtags in order to keep up with the social media crowd, too.

Facebook becoming more like Twitter through hashtags is beneficial to government and public sector organizations that use social media to interact with citizens and spark interest in public issues. Hashtags are “clickable”, and allow users to discover what other people are saying about a specific topic or issue. With hashtags, a citizen in your community can connect to other community members and your organization to discuss topics they are already passionate about by clicking and searching hashtags of interest.

Furthermore, hashtags allow your organization to create messages that are more likely to trend with relevant users and even go viral. This is made possible when users and organizations without much standalone online influence are connected through hashtags.

Have you heard enough to know that you need to incorporate hashtags into your organization’s Facebook posts? Here’s what to know before you start:

  • Hashtags were first rolled out on June 12, 2013, and will be rolled out to users in waves in the coming weeks.
  • The new feature will allow users to click on a hashtag to see a feed of what other people and organizations are saying about that topic, trend or event. For example, #skywire linked users to discussions of the recent historic tightrope walk over the Grand Canyon.
  • Users will be able to search for a specific hashtag from the search bar, click on hashtags from their feed or user’s posts, and share their thoughts directly from hashtag feeds.
  • Like Facebook’s other sharing options, hashtags have privacy settings set by each user. Only public hashtag posts will be shared in Facebook-wide trending.
  • Hashtags from other services like Instagram or even Twitter will be clickable when shared on Facebook, making it easier than ever for your organization to share messages across different platforms.
  • Organizations should consider all the opportunities offered with the new Facebook hashtags – and then just start using them! Hashtags enable organizations to interact with the public in real-time, topical conversations, gain insight into public opinion and priorities, and spark interest in events and issues meaningful to the community.

Hashtags are the first step for Facebook users to begin discovering and engaging in new conversations to build richer online communities. Social media platforms will continue to compete with and challenge one another to add new and better features that provide new interactions for users, searchability, and conversations organized by themes and topics. Public sector organizations should learn how to use these new features to reach new audiences and facilitate better conversations with their current followers to improve the impact of their social media presence.

Have you noticed any early successes in using the new Facebook hashtags? Do you have best practices from Twitter you think will translate to Facebook? Let us know in the comments.