Facebook is to integrate hashtags into its platform as it comes over all Twitter on its users. It wasn't a surprise when it was announced last night - but it's still a big deal. David Skerrett, director of Mobile Social Platforms for R/GA London discusses just how big a deal however.
Known to be coming since March, the Facebook Hashtag is now here. Well sort of. It’s not really ready yet. It’s not on mobile yet, it’s desktop only, so that’s half of Facebook use out for now. It’s not in most paid formats, it’s just in desktop newsfeed ads. So that means the majority of brand fans won’t see them. It’s not in insights and you can’t see if anything is trending, so the science of “learning by doing” will be interesting to start with. But inevitably this stuff will happen in full and brands will get to grips with using an additional tactic to generate more connected conversations between consumers and brands, and surface content in different ways – all powered by the consumer, and inevitably with the option to amplify with paid media.
We are, on reflection, positive about the Facebook Hashtag and what it points to in the social platform world. It also talks to Mark Zuckerberg’s relentless focus on the consumer, the consumer, the consumer. Consumers are already using hashtags. Facebook user’s don’t generally like change, timeline had a negative response to start with. So introducing something already in use in everyday conversation and by the majority of their competitors (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+) is a no brainer. The majority of Facebook users will love it. And Facebook can make money from it. Two birds, one stone.
Facebook have form when it comes to responsively evolving their platforms based on behavior and differentiators on other platforms: Foursquare led to Facebook Places, Quora led to Questions, Google+ Circles led to Smart Lists and so on. Now hashtags are being implemented and about time too.
The advertising world loves a hasthtag as a connector between conversations, a call to action on comms, and Facebook in embracing it are squarely moving into the second screen territory occupied by Twitter and search territory of Google. A clue to this is in their reference to 8-11pm peak usage hours of Facebook which are neatly aligned to TV consumption. Facebook ads and TVCs together: the media multiplier effect. Hashtag equals more ad products, and they will (eventually) work beautifully on mobile, Facebook’s Achilles heel.