Recently, Facebook announced that they will be implementing hashtags on their site. Why are they doing this? Hashtags have been a missed business opportunity for Facebook. They enable brands to steer live conversations and are extremely powerful during events such as the Super Bowl or awards shows. Twitter is the pioneer of cashing in on the promoted hashtag business and Facebook has realized that they want in. Facebook is also most likely in the process of commercializing hashtags on Instagram (a Facebook purchase) and combining both social media networks. Hashtags will enhance Facebook’s real-time commenting with brands who are organizing live events.
Reasons for skepticism in regards to the success of hashtags on Facebook:
1. Facebook is a closed network:
The content on Facebook is not open to search engines such as Google and Yahoo. You can post something, but no one will be able to search it. Everything shared on the social media site is held within “The Great Facebook Barrier” as I like to call it. This is the reason that so many brands have made fan pages and are becoming more and more active within the network- they need a stronger presence within Facebook’s closed network.
The reason hashtags work so well on Twitter is because most users in that social network have an open account. Facebook is a different environment where users have to accept who they allow into their circles. A successful hashtag experience also requires an open network in pulling from various social networks such as Google+, Twitter, Vine, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Facebook already pulls information from your personal Pinterest and Instagram accounts but, it would now have to combine all of this information and group them into hashtags. For brands, this definitely creates added value, but do consumers really want their entire online activity to be featured within Facebook?
2. The Facebook algorithm feed is curated:
Facebook made changes to its algorithm last year, which essentially ranks paid content higher on your live feed rather than organic posts from your friends. Public figures and brands are encouraged to pay in order to rank their posts higher than everyone else’s in your feed. Adding hashtags to the feed will be another source of income, encouraging paid promotions by other brands. Brands and/or users will be asked to pay for hash tag content.
3. Users go on Facebook to interact with their friends, not to look for news content:
The main purpose of Facebook is to catch up with your social network. Users go on it to talk to their friends and to stay in touch. If they want to search for news stories, they would go to sites like the Huffington Post or Yahoo! News. Because of the casual, friendly environment of Facebook, I see it as doubtful that users would be ready to have branded hash tags in addition to the promotional posts that are already included in their news feeds. With all of this extra content, it may deter users from even using Facebook because it could be “clogging up” their news feeds.
4. Is Facebook losing its “cool factor?”
Facebook might be encouraged to adopt hashtags due to a recent trend growing among the younger Facebook user demographic- boycotting Facebook (or at least limiting their interaction with it). For this younger demographic, there are concerns of privacy (many parents and older family member watching what you’re up to), there is constant spam from brands and their promoted posts, as well as too many people they are “friends” with but in actuality, do not even know or are concerned about anymore. Because of these issues within Facebook, this younger demographic is spending more and more time on Instagram (a prime example behind Facebook’s purchase of the network), Twitter and Tumblr. With the implementation of hashtags on Facebook may come the integration of all big social media sites (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
It will be interesting to observe the results of this. I have a feeling that hashtags will end up being tailored mainly for marketers, which will create additional spam on the social network, hence a potentially deeper exodus from the platform. What is your opinion about hashtags on Facebook?