The old saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” reflected on Facebook’s recent move (June 12) to include clickable hashtags on its users’ posts just like Twitter, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Tumblr, and Pinterest already allow. Like these other social media sites, Facbook hashtags let users see a feed of what other people and pages are saying about a particular event event or topic.
For example, the National Basketball Association (NBA) had a hashtag for its exciting finals series, #NBAFinals, that allowed millions of fans to connect and share their opinions, thoughts, and observations before, during, and after the games. Instead of thousands of random streams from people commenting on the games never connecting, a hashtag allows interested users to follow a single stream, #NBAFinals in this case, and contribute to the discussion.
Again, this is nothing new for social media networks like Twitter, as followers have been able to follow specific tweet streams on anything from various professional conferences, classes, and issues to movies, games, and travel tips – and tons more. A hashtag can virtually be used to connect anything. Now Facebook’s more than a billion users can leverage hashtags to:
- Search for a specific hashtag from your search bar. For example, CO-OP Financial Services’ recent THINK conference hashtagged: #THINK13.
- Click on hashtags that originate on other services, such as Instagram.
- Compose posts directly from the hashtag feed and search results.
According to Facebook, hashtags are just the first step to help people more easily discover what others are saying about a specific topic and participate in public conversations. The world’s largest social media network states that it will continue to roll out more features in the coming weeks and months, including trending hashtags and deeper insights, that help people discover more of the world's conversations.
So what does this mean for credit unions? Nothing if you don’t use them. But if you do – and you should, credit unions can easily leverage Facebook’s hashtags to do a number of things that will help further promote the movement:
- Credit unions can band together and create a single hashtag that will unite the industry for a larger group to create and promote momentum regarding various issues, events, and news.
- Segueing from the last point, specific issues, events, and news can have their own hashtags for followers to join and discuss. Bank Transfer Day (#BankTransferDay) was a perfect example. More recently, CUNA’s “Don’t Tax My Credit Union”’ movement has the hashtag: #DontTaxMyCU – which is supposed to help motivate 96 million credit union members tell Congress to keep its mitts off our not-for-profit cash.
- Industry events can even be hashtagged for attendees to follow along regarding the latest conference news, upcoming sessions and speakers, entertainment, issues discussed, etc. CUES’ upcoming CUES School of Mortgage Lending™ will have a hashtag for its students to follow any mortgage-related discussions at: #CUESMortgage13.
- Individual credit unions can announce new products and services (#XYZGoesRemoteDeposit), community events (#JoinXYZCUbeachcleanup), branch openings (#VisitMainStreetBranchOpening), webinars/seminars (#XYZCUinvestingseminar), or they and their members can join in the #DontTaxMyCU fray.
- Credit union members can also participate by creating their own Facebook hashtags to discuss their experience using mobile services (#XYZCUgoesmobile).
The list of hashtags is literally endless. They can be serious, humorous, informative, clever, or dull – whatever the person or organization’s fancy is at the time. Just make them relative to the topic of event. The end result is that hashtags make it so easy to follow a specific conversation on a specific event or topic. Without them, these fragmented discussions would more than likely never connect.
Now that Facebook has included this feature to its wall posts, it means a world of increased opportunity for credit unions. Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram are mere fractions when it comes to a user numbers comparison. As mentioned earlier Facebook has exceeded a billion users. Twitter is at 550 million, Tumblr is at 24 million, Pinterest is at 48 million, and Instagram is quickly ballooning to more than 100 million users.
For credit unions, the amplified exposure of their hashtags on Facebook – whether they originate on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or Pinterest – means tapping into a whole new and much, much, much larger audience to spread their message. As Martha Stewart often cites after a successful baking or craft venture, “That’s a good thing.”
If used correctly, the results of Facebook’s new clickable hashtag feature could open the credit union name/brand to potentially millions more consumers worldwide. A simple well-constructed and well-placed hashtag has the potential to blow the doors off the credit union industry’s recent increase in growth. As credit unions, associations, vendors, and members, don’t we all want that?
What hashtags have you used in the past that resulted in successful, promotional conversations? How do you plan to leverage Facebook’s hashtag feature?