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Google recently announced that Google Search will now allow users to search for Google+ posts including hashtags. If you are in Canada or in the United States, and you are using the English version of Google, then you have certainly already noticed this new feature.

What does it mean in practice? Enter a specific hashtag in the Google Search bar. On the right end side of the screen, a section “#hashtag on Google+” appears. Note that the hashtags that are pulled by Google are only the ones that were made public or shared with you (and you can see the latest ones only if you are logged in your Google account). There is also a scrolling button to allow you to see the latest shared content using that hashtag. For every post that shows on the right sidebar you can see how many comments and +1 it received. The links are also working, which means that when one clicks on the post, he is redirected to the Google+ page where the hashtag was used.

In the case of #highered :

Hashtags Just Got Even More Important on Google

If you are using PPC campaigns, no panic! Google+ posts will be placed below the PPC ads, but this is an opportunity to build and reinforce visibility.

PPC campaigns

Source: Social Media Today

What does it mean for your college?

This new Google feature will definitely increase the use of hashtags on Google+ posts. Most importantly, it could be another way for your college to stand out from competition and be more visible on Google. As we mentioned in one of our previous posts, 75% of users never scroll past page one results. This new feature could help you gain a strategic position on the page.

What should you do to leverage this new feature?

1. Start building your presence on Google+ if you have not already. It could be a place for you to share what is happening behind the scene, or give a more equivalent to a very public Facebook account.

2. Develop a hashtag strategy: According to a recent survey by Radiumone, hashtags are more likely to engage readers, as over 50% of of them admit they would more readily explore content when hashtags are used. This percentage rises to over 70 percent when they use mobile devices. That’s why it is only normal you integrate hashtags into your social media marketing strategy. How?

  • Research hashtags that are popular with your students and relevant to your college. Start by analyzing where your students are sharing, the hashtags they use and why they may want to join in a conversation using these specific hashtags. Make sure that the hashtags are not already in use or associated with negative comments. Sites like, Twubs and What the Trend help you find relevant hashtags, but also which ones are trending (and in the case of What the Trend, where they are most popular).
  • Create 2-3 hashtags that are unique to your school. To build momentum on social media and enhance your brand, Social Media Strategist Jeff Bullas recommends that you pick hashtags that are closely related to keywords your college uses for SEO.
  • Promote your hashtags early and promote them often. Integrate hashtags to all your digital marketing initiatives to entice students to use them as well. Reach beyond your community on Facebook,  Twitter, and Google+ with consistent hashtags. Again, hashtags are primarily about creating conversations with your audience. Testing out various hashtags can help you figure out which are more relevant to your audiences.
  • Keep building your presence on hashtag-heavy websites such as Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. There is no point in creating hashtags (or even worry about them and how students may use them in search) if you do not have a strong online community that will use them.

         Whatever you do, avoid these mistakes:

    • #tagging #every #single #word, as it can feel spammy
    • Use too generic hashtags that may dilute your brand and not offer you any benefits

3. Be present on Google+ and start using hashtags consistently when sharing content on social media. The new Google+ search window shows in real time what has been shared. So if you do not use hashtags in consistent postings, all your efforts will avail to nothing.