Is Marketing Taking Over?
After months of rumors and speculation Facebook will follow the lead of young upstart Twitter and Google+ by introducing hashtags to its posts.
Hashtags have been one of social media’s biggest success stories. The space-less, punctuation-free messages are widely used across Twitter to allow people to search for updates around a single subject and create a real-time ‘news feed’ for any word or phrase. Google+ also offers that feature by automatically tagging your posts with recommended hashtags. Marketeers have also jumped on the bandwagon by featuring hashtags on television advertising to get people tweeting about their product.
However Facebook has always been a more personal social network. Friend lists ensure content posted on Facebook is shared with an exclusive list of people the user knows more intimately than the wide net cast by Twitter ‘followers’. Facebook is primarily used for sharing photographs and playing online games such as Farmville with a defined friends list meaning there was never really a need for a hashtag style system.
Now Facebook is hoping to become the front page of the internet for over one billion users worldwide. It wants to act as a personalised newspaper for every person who uses the service by pulling in news and content that is relevant to each individual, all supported by advertising. CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s company is urging brands to start using hashtags in their Facebook ads.
In a statement sent by Facebook you could read some more details about their objectives: “If you are already using hashtags in an advertising campaign through other channels, you can amplify these campaigns by including your hashtags in Facebook advertising … Any hashtags that you use on other platforms that are connected to your Facebook page will be automatically clickable and searchable on Facebook.”
The introduction of hashtags to Facebook is a concerted effort to open up Facebook and create a community in the same way Twitter and to a lesser extent Google+ has with wider-reaching interaction between people within certain groups of friends. Searching for a particular hashtag as, for example, a major sporting event is taking place will display all updates about that event across the Facebook network. It will change how people use Facebook from a personal, fun interaction to an all-encompassing social network.
Hashtags will mean Facebook becomes a playground for big business. Sponsored hashtags, advertising on trending topics and sponsored search results will all invade what was once a customisable personal space.
The success of the hashtag tactic depends on the ability to change customers’ habits from fun, personal use to engaged users looking for a social research and live news tool that allows for more to be said than the restrictive 140-character limit of Twitter. Whatever happens, the humble hashtag is about to become the universal internet tool for social news and marketing.