After much speculation, Facebook finally announced this week that hashtags are being slowly rolled on Facebook. This is sure to make for a very different experience not only for users, but also for marketers and brands, who have been salivating for the potential this brings to creating more relevant campaigns and stronger advertising.
Here are a few of the exciting marketing implications of the Facebook hashtag:
Trending topics – this looks to be rolled out soon but not immediately. However, it will function similarly to Twitter to show Facebook fans the top conversations, and allow them to participate. This is great for brands so they can also join the conversation, and better understand what gets their fans to discuss, comment & engage.
Conversation Topics – shown in the screenshot below, this is what happens when you click on a hashtag. The implication here for marketers is to follow the #topics they create or want to tap into. It will be much easier to learn what fans are specifically saying, and brands can adjust messaging accordingly.
Offline online power of hashtags – Facebook has really been struggling how to incorporate themselves into offline marketing (QR codes just ain’t cutting it), while Twitter has been killing it with hashtag integration. From TV shows, to billboards and print, it’s been easy for Twitter to get a hashtag in front of people, with an implied call-to-action. Now Facebook can enter this game, and potentially steer conversation away from Twitter
Perhaps the most exciting implication? Those fans who have inexplicably been using hashtags on Facebook for years, finally their hashtag means something. #hashtaghipsters
Impact for Advertising
While they have not lifted the veil on how marketers can advertise based on hashtags, they have already started encouraging brands to include them in advertising, to set the expectation with consumers, and to have them ready to go when the functionality is live. We can speculate a little bit in terms of the impact that hashtags will have on advertising:
Better and more specific targeting: While it is pretty sophisticated as it is, it’s likely that Facebook will be able to tell us which conversation topics drive a lot of volume, and marketers/brands will be able to insert themselves into those conversation (either in-line or with advertising on the side).
Sponsored topics: Similar to how you can sponsor topics on Twitter, running this type of advertising through Facebook could be pretty cool. Because of the self-serve model, I would guess that it would be competitively priced against Twitter’s somewhat outrageous demands.
What Brands Should Do Now
As it is right now, Facebook is being a bit cagey about the marketing implications of this. But rest assured, that where there is revenue to be made, they’ll start sharing more details with marketers. For now, here are the things brands/marketers should be considering:
Test hashtags in ad copy: This actually comes straight from Facebook. It is an interesting test in order to gauge the implications, reactions and engagement that adding hashtags has. Tread lightly though and don’t use too many. A couple of campaigns with only one hashtag should suffice.
Keep an eye on popular/related hashtags on Twitter: Keeping an eye on relevant conversations will help brands/marketers know which conversations to strike up or join on Facebook, as well as give them a relevant scope of what fans are discussing.
Revisit current hashtag strategy: It’s possible that many brands do not have this, so if you do not it’s likely time to make one. Consider what your brand can get out of adding hashtags into Facebook, and the implications it has for your larger strategy. For those just getting started, think about: where hashtags live (online/offline) & the branding implication.