Facebook introduces hashtags

Facebook has typically relied on its users having strong one-to-one relationships, with connections developed between people based on existing relationships and shared experiences. The news feed has focused on showing updates that are deemed the most relevant to the user based on recent interactions with friends and pages or the popularity of updates with other friends. This social context has given Facebook a strong proposition for its users and advertisers however it has struggled to capitalize on the opportunity to engage users in topical events and discussions.

Facebook will roll out hashtags for events, people and topics, allowing users to view a feed of updates from all users who have included the hashtag in their post, regardless of their connection. Hashtags will be clickable within the platform to see what other users and Pages are saying about a particular event or topic. The visibility of the hashtagged content will depend on the privacy settings determined by the user for updates.

This will allow users to search for content and conversations that originate in Facebook and Instagram, a move that will help facilitate both discovery and community within the social network.

Hashtags will give people an opportunity to connect with users outside of their friendship network to discuss common interests however it is uncertain whether this will be embraced by users already concerned with personal privacy.

It is expected that an ad unit to leverage this new functionality will soon follow. The introduction of hashtags will give Facebook the opportunity to shift the context of their advertising products away from targeting based on profile data and implied interests to real-time conversations.

While this will give Twitter and Facebook a more even playing field in the adaptive marketing game, the platforms would still rely on their USPs for a competitive edge; Twitter users update more frequently than Facebook users which would increase volume of mentions whilst Facebook updates are “stickier” in news feeds and allow threaded conversations within comments. An advertising product would also give marketers an opportunity to see data around conversations and mentions, something that hasn’t been available since the demise of Lexicon.

This is also an indication that Twitter and Facebook have identified social networks as a complement to TV sponsorships and advertising, something evangelised by Twitter’s Melissa Barnes during her visit to Australia last week, calling for a “cross-channel, real-time, multi-channel effort” from brands.

Updates with hashtags will allow users to click through to other conversations around topics, events and people within Facebook, creating communities around conversations instead of personal connections. This shift gives Facebook an opportunity to become more relevant to users and advertisers who want to discover content or conversation about a particular topic or who want to participate in a discussion that extends further then their network of friends.

 

Photo Credit: misspixels via Compfight cc;

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~ by mandi bateson on June 13, 2013.

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