Facebook gets hashtags: 5 rules for using hashtags on social media

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comJune 12, 2013 

Once again, I can't access the cool kids' club.

News surfaced Wednesday that hashtags have invaded the Facebook world. I'm talking about hashtags that really work, as opposed to hashtags that simply initiate a thread of comments questioning the necessity of hashtags.

Anyway, it's true. Mashable explains, "The social network wants to make it easier for users to find content already on Facebook, and functional hashtags are the first step. According to Facebook, many users already post hashtags anyway, so why not make them work."

The good news: a small percentage of Facebook users could play with functional hashtags Wednesday. The bad news: others, including yours truly, will apparently have to wait.

Mashable adds, "Facebook will roll out hashtags to more users in the coming weeks."

Facebook's use of hastags will reportedly be similar to what we've seen on Twitter and Instagram, but not identical. "Unlike on Twitter, that stream will be drastically limited by privacy settings, and users will only be able to see public posts and content made visible to them by friends," according to The Verge.

Maybe delayed gratification is a good thing. It gives us time to review my quick refresher on hashtag etiquette.

Have a purpose. Hashtags are largely used as what Mashable calls a "topic organization system." It's a way to build a community around a topic or idea. Increasingly, hashtags have also become a way to express witticisms and personal commentary about news.

Method No. 1: The hashtag accompanies a specific topic (Gatsby) that's likely a hot search term at the moment

Method No. 2: Hashtag accompanies a searchable topic (Braves), but also terms designed to express wit and commentary

Don't be The Girl (or Boy) Who Cried Hashtag. An occasional "#blessed" is fine. But if you bombard me with unnecessary hashtags, I'll eventually tune you out.

Note: These sample tweets come from my Ledger-Enquirer colleagues. Follow them!

Impose a length limit. Quick secret: There's absolutely no difference between "#imhungryandreadyfordinner" and "I'm hungry and ready for dinner." Wait, there is a slight difference. The first option makes me roll my eyes and wonder why you didn't just write a sentence like a normal person.

Don't succumb to hashtag haze. A quick Twitter search for "#Columbus" produced tweets from Columbus, Ohio...Columbus, N.C...and a few from good old Columbus, Ga. Sure, hashtags are a valuable way to organize topics. But use common sense when navigating a hashtag search, especially when geography is involved. Also, make sure to check the dates on the tweets your hashtag search yields.

Use "#YOLO" responsibly. Sometimes, that means not at all. Sorry, folks.

As a matter of personal preference: Please refrain from using a hashtag if you are posting a photo of an engagement ring, sonogram image or Candy Crush Saga update on Facebook. You will exceed your annoyance quota and possibly push someone over the edge. Trust me, this is a "Snapped" episode that doesn't need to happen.

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