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Facebook and the New Implications of the #hashtag
By: Christine Geraci
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Every now and again, I'll still get somebody asking me what the heck a hashtag is. 
"Oh, you mean the pound sign?" they'll say, after my short explanation. 
Even now that Facebook is rolling out hashtags, I can't say I'm confident anything will change in the hashtag-ignorance arena.
But what WILL change, however, is how hashtags are strategically used to expose content. 
Facebook joins Twitter, not to mention Instagram, Vine, and Google+ on the list of social networks that utilize hashtags. (Pinterest, incidentally, recently took away the use of hashtags. Bad move or good? Perhaps we'll explore that in another post.) The hashtag, first "invented" by Chris Messina, will turn six years old on August 23. What was once deemed a rather ugly but necessary way to aggregate Twitter information by topic is now a way to put an endless stream of thoughts in some resemblance of order across social networks. 
That "across social networks" part is pretty key. If you have a hand in a social strategy of some kind, the hashtag has to be much more than something you simply throw in because it helps with exposure.
Hashtags will help you listen to conversations...across social networks. Following key hashtags relevant to your business is now more important than ever, because they can now be used on a social network utilized by more than 1.1 billion people.
Put more thought into the hashtags that will represent you...across social networks. A hashtag should be as short and definitive as possible. There should be no confusion about what it means. Again, now that hashtags are being utilized on a 1.1 billion-strong social network, there are now bigger implications to changing a hashtag midstream, or using one that's easily confused with another. 
Monitor the use of your hashtags...across social networks. Your hashtag might be popping up in places you might not expect. Be sure you're taking the time to find out exactly where.
So does all this mean you have to search for hashtags within each individual social network, even if you don't have a presence on certain social networks? Heck no. I'm willing to bet that hashtag aggregating and searching services are about to reach an invasive-aquatic-species level of growth. But for now, I'm a huge fan of Tagboard, which lets you aggregate content by hashtag across multiple social networks. I'm also a big fan of SocialMention, which essentially does the same thing (but isn't just for hashtags). The fact they're both free is a big bonus.
What do you think of Facebook entering the hashtag game?

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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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