Facebook hashtags can be a game-changer for advertisers. Hashtags on Facebook will give a deeper insight into the lives of users, which will result in better targeting capabilities. As a result, we expect to see either the gradual depreciation of Pages as people migrate to hashtags only, or brand pages growing more organically through building awareness in interest based conversations. Certainly the boundaries between Facebook and Twitter are becoming increasingly blurred and it will be interesting to see what Twitter’s next move will be in response to Facebook hashtags.
As is known, on June 12, 2013 Facebook launched the use of hashtags in posts. It works very much like hashtags on Twitter. Posts containing the same hashtag are aggregated and placed in chronological order in a thread which can be seen by people and pages whom are not necessarily friends or fans and is clickable (this will only apply to public posts). It will open up opportunities for brands to be a part of interest based conversations rather than advertiser content only being seen by existing fans and friends of fans.
As simple as that sounds, Facebook’s hashtags will have implications on all stakeholders of the industry.
Let’s begin with Brands. Facebook hashtags will mean that content will be easily shared from platform to platform. Above-the-line media containing hashtags will become more resonant and have greater synergy across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For example, Nike’s #makeitcount campaign spanned from TV to outdoor, to Twitter and Instagram and across the web. But Facebook, although present in terms of echoing content, lacked the heavily-promoted #makeitcount hashtag to tie it all together. Hashtags hence, can now have more impact at a campaign level.
From a targeting point of view, hashtags will allow Facebook to gain a deeper insight into the lives of its audience. Hashtags will allow data such as status updates, pictures, check-ins, to be categorised, so Facebook can understand the audience better and then map that information onto its existing understanding of its users (age, gender, location, friends etc.). All of this will result in an improved ad-targeting system. Interest targeting on Facebook is nothing new, but if a user takes the time to hashtag a post, it adds great weight. For example, you may have ‘liked’ Ferrari back in 2009, but never given them another thought since. As a result, your casual ‘like’ is viewed in the same way as a hardcore Ferrari fan’s ‘like’ by the brand, which isn’t accurate. If you suddenly use #Ferrari in a post on a Saturday afternoon, you become a relevant consumer to an advertiser. This generates real time relevance, which is what has made Twitter so successful.
Hashtags will also significance from users’ standpoint. Facebook privacy settings will still take precedence over actions so if you use a hashtag in a status that has been set to be seen by ‘friends only’ then only your friends will see your update. As a result of this, conversations will not form as fluidly on Facebook in the way they do on Twitter. Additionally, the majority of authentic conversation on Facebook occurs within the comments box of a post, which is not currently permitting hashtag searches – possibly a missed opportunity. Finally, the move could result in fewer hashtags being used in actual conversation on Facebook and used increasingly to tag relevant images – generating a more photo based sharing community than a conversation based one.
Will we see Facebook package its products up in a similar way to Twitter? Possibly. If we do, we will likely see a bundle of ad formats being rolled out (promoted hashtags and trends) so that when users click hashtags, it becomes a new discovery mechanism for brand content and pages.
The author, Elizabeth Barry, better known as Lizzie Barry, is an Account Manager – Media Planning in the Mindshare UK team