Facebook’s promised release of Hashtags has started to rollout this week. This opens up a whole new front for Facebook in terms of data collection, and will change the way users use the platform.
On July 1st 2009 Twitter began to hyperlink all hashtags, thus validating the content grouping mechanism devised by its core users, and now Facebook is following suit. Some Facebook users have been using hashtags in content for some time of course, particularly when using third party Twitter/Facebook cross-posting software, but now Facebook is taking Twitter’s lead and further advancing the platform.
First, let’s have a quick look at how Facebook’s hashtags work in practice. At present, on my personal account, adding a hashtag to a status update is simple and looks like this:
However, even if you don’t see the blue shading of the hashtag come up as you type, your hashtags will be clickable by users who currently have the functionality. Although, note, if it doesn’t come up in blue for you as you type then you won’t be able to see hashtags as hyperlinked as of yet until the rollout reaches your profile.
Once a hashtag is in a post (for a user with the functionality) the update will look as per the below with the hashtag in hyperlinked text:
Upon clicking the hyperlinked hashtag the following overlay appears showing the activity around the hashtag:
From this area the functionality is present to say something about this hashtag or scroll through posts from users with no connection to yourself who have used this hashtag, in a Twitter esque way (presumably providing they’ve set their post to “public”).
Right now, two things that seem to be missing (in my version of the rollout at least) are:
We’ve gone into a bit more detail on the why element over at MarketingLand (to be published soon), but here’s a quick summary to make sure you know everything you need to.
From Facebook’s perspective this completes their data set. Right now, Facebook know an awful lot about who we are and what we like, but in reality they are a little fuzzy on what we talk about. Not anymore. Hashtags give Facebook a rich new data set as users voluntarily flag up to Facebook the key meaning of their content. Hashtags reveal topic, sentiment, and opinions about a wide variety of issues. This allows Facebook to know more, and therefore will allow them to open up better targeting options for their advertising product.
Soon, page owners will be able to target their Facebook adverts based on hashtags used by users. This will allow advertisers to target more active fans who are actively discussing something, rather than just belonging to a grouping or having liked a certain page at some point in the past. This will in theory improve conversion rates from click to like (providing the advert and page is relevant) and should give savvy marketers a way to further reduce the cost of fan acquisition.
From a content marketing perspective, things are going to get even more interesting on Facebook. At present if you want your Facebook content to have a high reach (particularly outside of your page’s extended network) you need to either come up with a highly viral post or amplify your content in the Facebook newsfeed based on user like profiles. Now, the opportunity has been created to push your posts outside of your network by using hashtags, particularly when they are trending. Below is an example of this for a competition post using the #win tag:
Going forward, page owners need to be looking out for trending hashtags that they can take advantage of, and amend their content plans to fit the trends where they can. This will ensure that maximum reach is achieved. In much the same way as Twitter this will be hit and miss – hashtag results are shown chronologically and dependent upon pictures and screen size, only a few show above the fold of the hashtag overlay box. This means that you need your content to go out at the right time as a hashtag grows in popularity to get maximum exposure.
As always, the key to success is in the measurement. Analyse the results of your posts with hashtags, split test, and base your future content on your learnings. Hashtag data (impressions, clicks, reach, engagement) is not yet available in Facebook insights, but hopefully won’t be far away. For now you’ll need to try to test yourself by split testing and checking reach and impression figures (which should include reach from hashtag searches/clicks).
Image credit: http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/facebook-the-newsfeed-isnt-the-only-thing-changing-facebook-is-embracing-hashtags/