Facebook’s plan to incorporate hashtags—a practice popularized by Twitter—looks like a very smart business move, both for the social media giant and its advertisers. Putting a hashtag in front of word or phrase makes it a searchable metadata tag.
But why would Facebook adopt a feature so symbolic of Twitter? As of today, Facebook does not put real-time information in the user’s face. Displaying trending topics remains one of Twitter’s key differentiators in the social media space.
When Facebook adapts the hashtag to display trending news feeds, it will take some of the edge out of Twitter as well as complement Facebook’s graph search feature, which is yet to evolve into a finer search tool.
For brands, hashtags mark the advent of contextual marketing on Facebook. Fans will use hashtags to read linked information and most likely spend more time on the site discussing different topics.
Brands can then work with Facebook to track frequented topics, display targeted ads, and generate more revenue. They can also convene conversations about their products or campaigns just like on Twitter, and display tags on TV and print ads to increase participation. Apart from Facebook community pages, brands can also use hashtags for social commerce, for example, by encouraging fans to post a hashtag in exchange for a reward or premium.
One downside to escalating the use of hashtags could be one of Facebook’s perennial bugaboos—privacy. Users will have to accept the idea of allowing their content to be indexed. While marketers and Facebook have a lot to gain from the hashtag, its real success will depend on whether or not fans are willing to open up their profile a bit more.
Interakt has already begun weighing the options to leverage the business potential of hashtags on Facebook for our clients. If you are looking for a creative partner to help you benefit from hashtags on Facebook, just drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org .