How To Get the Most Out Of Facebook Hashtags

#HashtagsOnFacebook graphic

Facebook -- finally, at long last -- rolled out hashtags this week. While they've been commonplace on Twitter, Instagram and Google+ for years, the user base on those networks doesn't come close to equaling Facebook's. That means a lot of users will probably be experiencing growing pains in the next several weeks and months as they acclimate to best practices and etiquette.

We'll skip the hashtags-101 lesson for the purposes of this post (this Common Craft video explains what hashtags are in just a few seconds), but the Curator social media team did want to offer some commonsense tips on how to optimize hashtags on your Facebook profile and pages. Here's what we'll be focusing on for our own accounts:

Stay relevant to your brand and choose your hashtags wisely - A hashtag is used primarily as a search tool for relevant material and can significantly amplify your brand's voice to a new audience. But your followers will see right through it if you try to incorporate a hashtag just for the sake of trying to gain visibility, and it could damage your credibility. Try choosing your content first to remain relevant, and add hashtags to support your original content and creativity.

Don't overdo it - Hashtags are a lot like curse words: They're much more effective when used sparingly. Instead of trying to jam-pack dozens of hashtags into your Facebook updates, pick one or two (at most) that relate to what you're posting about. Also, just as you don't need to swear in every sentence, you don't need to use a hashtag in every update. Pick your spots and think back to tip No. 1 -- be relevant.

Give people something to say - When you're ready to create your own hashtag, think hard about the sentiments you want people to express. Brands that want to elicit the most conversation around their hashtag will stray away from using their own name and lean more towards something specific. For example, Nike’s #makeitcount campaign inspired people to think creatively more than the bare-bones "#Nike" ever would. Before you launch a hashtag, though, be careful and be brutal during your internal editing process. People are quick, especially with big brands, to lampoon a hashtag. You don't want to be the next #McDStories.

Listen, listen, listen (search, search, search) - One of the best things about Facebook hashtags is that they've opened up Facebook in a way that hasn't yet been possible. As a brand, you can now listen to conversations people are having about you outside of just your Facebook page. As an individual, you can search topics that are relevant to your interests and areas of expertise, and connect with people who you never would have known otherwise. Plan to devote a good portion of your social media schedule to listening through search. Think of the keywords related to your brand, update those constantly, and comment, when it's relevant and when you're able to, where conversations about those topics are taking place. It's a great way to grow your audience and amplify your influence.

Got any tips of your own? Share them in the comments. And keep an eye on how we're using hashtags by Liking us on Facebook.