A friend of mine who manages social media for her company recently made a post on her Facebook page and asked, “What is up with the use of hashtags on Facebook? I don’t get it.”
It seems that not too many, if any, advocated for the use of hashtags unless you were on Twitter or Instagram. The majority of the comments on her Facebook page were in total agreement: hashtags + Facebook = blasphemy
Well then, consider me a blasphemous marketer. And I said so on her wall.
I began my own exploratory on how the ever-popular and often misused hashtag came to be, and wondered if Twitter owned that birthright. Per the wikki page, hashtags were first used within Internet Relay Chat networks to identify topics, groups or topics relevant to a particular group. Twitter does get credit for elevating its use and popularity and the first high-profile application occurred during the 2007 California wildfires (#sandiegofire).
From wikki, my online search led me to this site for best practices where I discovered the illustrious hashtag can – and is – being used in other places. These uses are affectionately known as “Hash tags in the wild” (see the bottom of the web page).
As the marketing director for a university, social media is part of our everyday. It’s where our audiences live and where they learn about us, ask questions and share opinions. I have used hashtags on Facebook. Often. And sometimes, I even “borrowed” them from our Twitter page.
Now let me be clear. We do not speak the same language across these two platforms but we do often share the same information. For us, it makes sense to leverage #uncggrad, #gospartans or #UNCGHomecoming across our different social channels. It simply continues the dialogue where are audiences are talking about us and with us.
Most popular and most often used, is #dsba. As an outcome from our integrated marketing initiative, #dsba equates to Do something bigger altogether, the university’s tagline and more importantly, our shared value. We use it when we post a story or compose a tweet, along with others from our campus community. Our students use the hashtag not only on Twitter and Facebook, but also on Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. For them, it is a collective conversation thread and for us, a branding opportunity built by an association that we contribute to, as well as our #dsba community members.
Is it working? I know we are on track because we created a page on our social media hub, Connect, that reflects the many social conversations around #dsba. And if I can take an indulgent moment to brag on the work of our creative team, we have won awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the American Advertising Federation for our use of social media and #dsba to promote and share integrated marketing. We have given several presentations on this topic as well.
Beyond higher education, hashtags can be used for consumer products goods, services, programs – the list is endless. It may take a while to build that community, but it is doable if you are diligent, responsive and consistent.
And by building that dialogue, you engage with your audience and encourage members to participate and shape the conversation. I can’t think of a better way to build and enhance your brand reputation.