Following the news that Facebook has rolled out clickable hashtags, something which some marketers have already taken advantage of, The Drum catches up with some agencies to find their views on what this will mean.
Jim Dowling, managing partner, Cake
The 'Facebook launches #hashtags' story is both mind boggling, and at the same time, refreshing.The actual act itself looks about as significant as the day someone invented 'Caps LOCK' on a typewriter. What makes it mind boggling is the fact that Google has just fired me back 30 million results in 0.17 seconds, and stories from over 300 news sources. This is social media though, and of course, it's a lot more significant than that. This isn't a 'concession' or a 'defeat' for Facebook. It is a pragmatic, mildly offensive measure to bring some conversation to back the Facebook platform, alongside all those photos. They're perhaps not too enamoured with all that 2nd screen TV viewing going on on Twitter, and it's time to claw some back. It also reminds us again, that old fashioned television still packs a punch. The stuff we watch on telly is driving huge chunks of the conversation, that ends up demanding a hashtag.That said, this is bigger than the lot of them. Twitter's hashtag is now a universally accepted part of the English – sorry - emerging global language. They are there, everywhere, just like emoticons or ROFL acronyms. Twitter don't own it. The hashtag is routinely used to communicate, filter and search content across cultures, languages and platforms. Only last week I heard Sean Cotton in Coronation Street using the phrase "hashtag justsaying" in the Rovers Return. We all own it. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TV et al are all sub-sets.
Steve Cater, head of digital, Whynot
An exciting addition driven by a need for a richer user experience or another push to drive a new user experience that can be monetised? In my view, the latter. The news of Facebook adopting clickable hashtags is a symptom of the growing battle for ownership of intent. Facebook owns closed affinity: serving users with tailored stories from closed groups. It does not deliver well when it comes to exploration outside of the users closed social group (be that friends, families or brands). Twitter on the other hand, whilst offering relevance within and (more importantly) outside of closed social groups, achieves a greater exploration experience for users. Twitter's timeline provides the bait and once the user bites they are quickly able to learn and explore a fuller conversation through hashtags.Given the news, it will be interesting to see how Facebook users embrace the change and how brands will utilise this in driving wider conversations that are both interesting and relevant. Having already dabbled with intent-driven advertising products I expect to see a suite of new formats. The success of these will live or die by how users embrace intent behaviours in a historically affinity driven environment.
Rupert Staines, MD, Radium One Europe
The hashtag has become omnipresent in recent years, used in social sharing and initially championed by Twitter, it is a simple and effective way of indicating hives of activity and ‘hot topics’, so it’s not surprising Facebook has finally recognised its significance. In fact, according to real-time social analytics provider, Topsy Data, the five most notable Twitter hashtags alone generated upwards of 11.7 million mentions over the last year alone. Facebook’s decision to introduce ‘clickable hashtags’ shows that it recognises the power of the collective voice and provides yet another dimension to its platform. As millions of potential customers use hashtags to broadcast their feelings, these moments represent an untapped opportunity for advertisers to interact, in a useful way, with consumers in real-time. With the appropriate tools, advertisers can instantly connect with consumers who show interest in relevant subjects in real time. Connecting with audiences using hashtag targeting gives advertisers a competitive edge and ultimately makes more of their paid media. For example, a brand can identify consumers who use hashtags such as #nike #sport #fitness on desktop computers, tablets and mobile devices and build a campaign with full page ad roadblocks across desktop and mobile platforms to these same consumers online within milliseconds.