What Does # (the hashtag) Mean on Facebook?

The hashtag has been around for quite some time now on Twitter (see previous post here). Now, Facebook has joined in as well, making it possible for you to share your information using a hashtag.  What we’re going to talk about here, is why it’s important, how it works, how to interact with them, and where you can use them.

Why Hashtags?

Whenever there is a significant event going on like a breaking news story, a high-profile game, or even something a little more personal like your son’s baseball team (I’m not biased, really :-)), there has been no way to really connect with others about it. Sure, you can make a post or share a story, but up to now, all you could do was like or share that post.

When you use a hashtag instead, Facebook can compile all of that information in one, neat, easy-to-read place.

In essence, hashtags make it easier for you to see more of these conversations happening. As an example, let’s say that you make a post about #cupcakes.  That hashtag will become clickable and you’ll be able to see who else is posting about #cupcakes in one easy-to-read feed.  I’ve got more on this below.

How it Works

Let’s say that you just saw a news story about a Mom and her son reuniting after 22 years (this really happened).  You may choose to share this news story on Facebook.

Now, in the past what would happen is that your friends would see this story.  Some may “like” it, some may choose to share it, and some may choose to comment on it. If someone else interacts with that story, their friends will see it and so on.  But, ONLY if someone chooses to do so.

With hashtags on Facebook, you can now add some text to your post, say, something like #MomSonReunion and the hashtag will become “clickable”, like a link. Whenever someone clicks on that hashtag, you will then see a feed of what other people and pages are saying about that event or topic.

As an example, let’s look at a post where the hashtag #iPad AND the hashtag #TheNextWeb were used.

facebook hashtag use

 If I click on the #iPad hashtag, I get a pop-up window that shows me this:

facebook hashtag window

Now, in this very unfortunate circumstance, we see that spammers are already using it for their own purposes.  At first I was going to not even add this image, but, felt it was necessary to keep it here to forewarn you that spam is already occurring on hashtags only a day after they went live.  No surprise, I know.

If, on the other hand, you click on the hashtag #TheNextWeb, you get a list of all of the articles recently published by The Next Web that have used this hashtag.

Can you see how this also might help you in business?


The Next Web Hashtag Use

The bottom line is, no matter what the topic, you can use a hashtag when you make your post on Facebook and it will immediately become clickable so that you can see who else has mentioned it.

Searching Hashtags

You can also search for a hashtag by simply entering it into your search box like so:

hashtag search

How to Use Hashtags

All you need to do is enter the # sign and then start typing.  Facebook will automatically turn it blue indicating that it’s a link (see screenshot below).  It is important to remember however, that you cannot use spaces in hashtags, just like Twitter. In other words, #thiswouldwork #this would not (although, the word #this would become its own hashtag :-)). hashtag test post

Where Can You Use Them?

You can use them on your profile page, your own pages, in fan page posts, group posts, and even within comments.

Now, since these are so new to Facebook, not everyone has the ability quite yet to use hashtags, but you soon will in the event you are unable to right now.

Also, if you use Facebook on your mobile device, they won’t work (yet) but, remember to still use them.  Why?  Because even if YOU are posting via a mobile device, they will still appear via a desktop or laptop computer.

What about Privacy?

Privacy has always been a really big issue; especially when it comes to Facebook.  Just like anything else you post, your privacy settings will kick in. It’s easy to over-complicate this but just know that if you post to a friends-only group, and you use a hashtag, only your friends will be able to see that post even if you click on the hashtag and it pops up in a new window. If you post it publicly, then, just like anything else, it’s public.

What’s Coming?

Right now, if you do a hashtag search in Facebook, you won’t get a list of popular ones being used.  Facebook says this is coming in the next few weeks and I’ll update here when it does. We’re in the beginning stages right now and there will be plenty more new items added I’m sure, as Facebook tweaks this new hashtag service.