This week, Facebook announced that they would be integrating hashtags (#) – you know, that genius way of organizing the world’s collective thoughts that has already been put to good use on Twitter and Instagram? (P.S. – Facebook owns Instagram ). As the news spreads, the announcement is making waves across the internet, from NBC News to Wired magazine.
Until now, trade associations and non-profit organizations have had to fork over big money for Facebook ads in order for the social network to play a valuable component in their issue campaigns.
The addition of hashtag functionality to Facebook will give budget-minded non-profits more options – and frankly, a better chance at truly being effective through this channel.
So, how does Facebook’s hashtag functionality help the advocacy world?
Hashtags tie everything together. ICYMI: Hashtags are aggregate searches of content shared through a social network by all users under the banner of one topic, determined by that hashtag (#). Coalitions of supporters are a loose patchwork of voices until they coalesce around an idea or rally cry. The ability to use hashtags on Facebook means that grassroots supporters from around the country can post their thoughts, videos, photos and stories, all tagged with the same easy-to-search message, to unify their voices.
Finding other, like-minded supporters has never been so easy. Hashtags allow anyone to discuss a topic, categorize it for easy searching, and make themselves available to interact with other supporters across the globe they may not have even known existed.
Filtering campaigns from the same advocacy organization is gets simplified. Before the introduction of hashtags, groups would only be able to “tag” your organization’s name in their post, leaving you to sift through hundreds or thousands of posts in order to properly count engagement with each issue. Now, with the introduction of hashtags, simply asking users to use a hashtag in the appropriate place in their post, and clicking, for example, “#cleanwater”, will filter all posts with that tag and leave out everything else – no sorting needed.
Let’s try an example here: If your environmental advocacy organization is running multiple campaigns at the same time, they can now segment their audiences and asks. Maybe the enviro group wants to ask some supporters and Facebook users to spread the word about clean air (or #cleanair), while asking a separate audience to spread the word about clean water (or #cleanwater). Facebook’s new hashtag functionality makes this type of segmenting a cinch.
We believe that the introduction of hashtags to Facebook is revolutionary. With the ability to bring like-minded advocates from around the country together under a single unified word or phrase, advocacy organizations will be able to harness the power of filtering and searching to breathe new life into their Facebook campaigns.
What’s next? Hashtags for Google Search or perhaps Google+?