It’s fleeting, it uses confusing ‘hashtags’ (like #awesomesauce), and it can give a new user a ‘one voice in the crowd’ sensation unlike any other social media platform. It’s no huge surprise that many tried and true Facebook users steer clear of the platform, but are they missing out?

There are a host of objections I typically hear from staunch Facebook users so I’ll concentrate on the first issue I mentioned.

It’s fleeting

This is an objection I hear from many businesses. They spend all that time creating a post, only for it to get lost among the noise minutes later.

Facebook has its ‘algorithm’; that intangible capacity to show a post on someone’s newsfeed sometimes days after it went up. At least that’s how many Facebook fans see it. The truth, I suspect, may be quite different.

Going by my own experience, and those of others who use both platforms, I think the difference could be down to user behaviour. Facebook use is habitual. Many users I know jump on whenever they’re on the bus/train home, once the kids are in bed, or first thing in the morning. Twitter use seems subtly different.

I (and many other Twitter users I know) follow what I’ll call the ‘dip-in approach’; often tuning in to discuss something in the news, to share an opinion about a newly released movie/TV episode, or for a specific Twitter ‘event’.

It’s Twitter events that I think can be of the most use for businesses and other organisations. Sadly it’s also the hardest thing to explain to a solid Facebook user.

Twitter events

If you only use Facebook, picture this: a new feature becomes available on Facebook. By adding a small symbol to your post you can link it directly to anyone else discussing this subject. (NB Facebook actually does have a feature like this but it currently isn’t as fluid as you’ll see here).

Using this symbol could link you to other users at a specific time (like a digital ‘social mixer’ or ‘conference’ depending on numbers). Alternatively it could link your post under a specific enduring theme, adding a new level of permanence to your post.

Facebook has yet to utilise this feature properly and I’m not sure why it doesn’t work. Maybe it’s a lack of user awareness, maybe it’s tech infrastructure. Whatever it is Facebook just doesn’t do it right. But Twitter does.

In fact this is Twitter’s bread and butter. This is what the illusive ‘hashtag’ (#) is for. It’s a quick link to all other posts on that topic.

Here’s an example of how it works: In my region there’s a weekly digital business mixer called #Perthshirehour. Every Wednesday at 8pm I (and a host of other businesses) log in to Twitter, search for ‘#perthshirehour‘, click on ‘most recent’, and chat, look at the work and services of other local businesses, and promote our own.

I just have to remember to add #Perthshirehour to my posts and it will appear in the same stream. It’s a temporary way of posting but it’s authentic, conversational, and often very helpful.

This can be used for online groups too. I participate in a yearly event called National Novel Writer’s Month. Writers push themselves to write 50,000 words through the course of November. Here the hash tags #nanowrimo and #nanowordsprints offer sources of support and advice.

Hashtags are a means of engagement. Some do misuse them but when used correctly they can turbo-charge your social media engagement.

I hope this post has helped de-mystify Twitter and hashtags for you. If you would like to know more (or if you have some information of your own to share) please feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading, all the best, John

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