Facebook has mastered the art of generating buzz around much anticipated feature rollouts. Facebook hashtags are no exception. There has been chatter online and offline alike around whether hashtags will ever have meaning on Facebook, despite current widespread use.
Since the advent of the hashtag in 2007 it had been widely adopted by prominent social networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ as a way to aggregate and participate in topic specific conversation. So, the real question regarding the Facebook hashtag transcendence is what it actually means for marketers.
When Facebook released the updated algorithm decreasing the visibility of brand posts among their audience, many brands were forced to rethink their social strategy. In order to garner the same type of reach, they needed to become smarter and more in-tune with the type of content that resonated with their community. The introduction of hashtags now provides brands with another layer of visibility. These now clickable hashtags will bring up a list of posts from friends and followed pages that contain the tag allowing for a greater level of content discovery outside of users' immediate friend circle. While Twitter remains their biggest competitor in the social space, perhaps this move, coupled with the introduction of Graph Search, points to Facebook now setting its sights on Google.
Facebook hashtags now have the potential to make hashtag-based campaigns even more impactful through cross-channel amplification of the message. If brands are already using hashtags in a campaign through other channels, these campaigns can now extend to Facebook. Hashtags only amplify the native role Facebook plays in joining and driving conversations. However, the same best practices on Facebook still apply ' compelling copy and photography that are in the brand voice work best.
Facebook is already a data mine in and of itself, but hashtags provide a deeper layer of conversation-based insight for brands. According to Facebook, this is only the first step in surfacing relevant and important public conversations. Over time we will see additional functionality for marketers, including trending hashtags and new insights to allow brands to better understand conversations that may help drive business objectives.
Hashtags certainly mark an important shift toward conversation-based marketing for Facebook, and we are eager to see where they go next. The great news is that at the very least, we can now all rest assured that when we see our friend's annoying and irrelevant hashtag on Facebook; it will be aggregated into a group of other people's annoying, irrelevant hashtags. #phew.