Hashtags have been on Facebook for nearly a year now, so it is important to understand the right way to use them. But before you can use them for your business, you should know how they work.

Hashtags are created when you type a word or phrase (without spaces) after a pound sign (#). The pound sign is referred to as a hashtag when used online through social media. By adding "#" to a word or phrase, you are making it a searchable link. Readers can click the link and see who else is talking about that specific topic.

The purpose of hashtags is to make posts more visible. A person searching under that hashtag topic is able to see all the posts, including those they have not yet "liked." Therefore, your company's page can be more visible to new customers — always a perk.

Here are three quick tips for using Facebook hashtags:

1. Don't overuse

When hashtags are used too often in a post, it makes them harder to read, and they can get overlooked. Avoid using hashtags more than 1-2 times per post.

2. Privacy settings matter

Privacy settings are still in effect with hashtags, so if you use a hashtag on a post that can only be seen by a specific group, then only that group will see it, even when it is being searched.

3. Promotion rules apply

Facebook hashtags can be used to promote your brand, product, event, contest or special discount offer. Creating a hashtag can help your promotion catch on more quickly with consumers.

Be careful if you are running a contest to only promote the contest through Facebook's approved contest rules. For example, it is OK to spread information and awareness about the contest through a hashtag such as, #WinAChewToy. However, it's against the rules to allow contest entries through that same hashtag.

Here are three examples of recent Facebook hashtag uses by pet product brands:

  • Friskies is using the hashtag #CatJobs and having customers post photos of the work their cats do around the home. It's a way to build engagement with their followers and the cat community.
  • Earth Rated Poop Bags uses #earthrated and #poopbags to reach potential new customers searching for the brand.
  • Pup-Peroni has a wonderful and easy hashtag of #pup to reach both those searching for the company and as a nice alternative to #dog, which comes up with a massive number of results.