When you think of social media, one of the first words that comes to mind is hashtag. The term was popularized on Twitter, and then spread like wildfire to other social media networks, including Instagram and Tumblr. A hashtag is a searchable word or phrase prefixed by the symbol #. For example, if you were trying to strike up a conversation about baseball, you might tag a post with #Yankees, #WorldSeries or #Jeter. Other individuals posting within those tags can engage with you, and you can reach out to like-minded fans.

Facebook Hashtags - how to use themHashtags are very useful on many levels, both for individuals and for businesses – especially on such an insular site as Facebook, where networking is, for the most part, limited to who you know and who you can reach through advertising. Facebook hashtags will hopefully open up a whole new world of communication with potential clients and customers, reachable by their shared interests in what you have to offer.

Yes, Facebook’s adoption of hashtags has been a long time coming. Rumors have circulated around the net for years, since Twitter shot its way up the social media popularity ladder. It has been speculated for a long time that Facebook would follow the hashtag suit in order to keep up with the times, and it finally has. The new hashtag system will be implemented on 20% of Facebook users on Wednesday, June 19. Within the next few weeks the site expects to launch the service globally.

So, how does this affect me, you may ask?

1. Categorize posts
If you’re an event photographer, you can post under the tags of #wedding, #barmitzvah, #Sweet16. If you’re a nutritionist, try #nutrition, #health, #wellness, etc. The individuals who post in these tags will be your potential customers. For example, a bride posting about her #wedding may see your post in the tag and contact you about your services. The free advertising & networking that hashtags provide is invaluable.

2. Move beyond your circle
Before this implementation, Facebook has been a largely insulated community reserved for people to talk and share with their friends and loved ones. While the privacy settings are valuable as they keep spam out, they are also difficult to work around when trying to network. Now, with hashtags, it will be easier to meet others with similar interests, to share and communicate beyond your immediate circle of friends. This is especially valuable to business owners, who up until now have had to focus on word-of-mouth (or, more accurately, keyboard) and paid advertising to get their message out into the larger Facebook sphere.

3. Follow hashtag links from other sources
Facebook has confirmed that tags from other social media platforms such as Instagram will be clickable and searchable when posted on Facebook. This is helpful because it reaches out to a whole new audience of customers. For example, do you own a restaurant? Well, people love to Instagram their food. So start a trend on your bistro’s fan page by posting some Instagram photos of your menu, and encourage customers to tag their meals with your restaurant name. Feature photos from your customers on your Facebook page with a single click!

So don’t be afraid when your Facebook feed is suddenly bombarded by “#” symbols. It’s no new spam or secret fad – just a new way to communicate with your audience. Don’t fear this change; embrace it! And use it to your advantage with the tips above.