Disclaimer: This article is brimming with the word “hashtags”. #LOL
Finally, Zuckerberg caved! After months, nay, years of ignoring what other social networks have done, Facebook finally rolled out its hashtag functionality. Of course, nothing was stopping you from using this symbol # before in your digital doodles on Facebook, but they were merely eyesores from Instagram and Twitter loyalists.
Now it’s official. What was once unnecessary yet somehow cool has been morphed into a standard. Should we celebrate?
Let’s find out…
Since the dawn of Twitter, we’ve been programmed to accept hashtags as a way of reaching conversations far beyond the limits of our own kingdom of followers. In fact, they allowed us to join conversations and topics talked about by thousands of other users, all because of a mere # symbol.
Soon, Instagram and Pinterest joined the game. They, too, featured hashtags in their functionalities, allowing people to search for key terms way beyond the scope of their own social profiles. Because it was incredibly convenient, a lot of people forgot that hashtags had privacy issues. But hey, this is social media! You’re here to socialise and promote, not keep things private and sullen.
Here’s a video about the hype of social media for digital marketing.
The bigger impact here is on business advertisers and brand marketers. The hashtag explosion will leave a giant crater of visibility potential for their brands. In fact, even without the go-signal from Facebook, marketers still rushed into the hashtag trend, eager to try their hand at this weapon of mass, er, promotion. This massive sphere of influence has become a major source of power for brands frolicking on Facebook.
What Does This Mean?
It simply means that brands will find it more convenient to promote from one medium to another. Those bursts of hashtag invitations on TV ads, restaurant menus, and even newspaper pages will resonate more soundly because of the hyper-energy that welcomed FB hashtags.
All you have to do is place ubiquitous TV spots featuring your brand’s hashtag and you’re already morphing your campaigns into synergistic ads for all types of audiences. That, in itself, is an achievement.
Here’s the dissection:
Dynamism – There’s a broad spectrum of marketing mediums that work well with hashtags, not just social media. Place them with your trademark slogans on billboards, TV ads, newspaper slots, and even sample products to give the impression that your brand is a trending topic.
Universality - Hashtags aren’t just functionalities, but iconographies of fame or popularity. They aren’t merely signals for “trending”, but are universal symbols of the latest AND hottest topics. Sure, you can use hashtags whenever you like, but only the ‘most talked about’ topics appear on search results.
But There’s a Catch…
Well actually, there are three:
Let’s start with the privacy issue I mentioned earlier. As with any updates on social networks, the primary question most people would ask prior to launch is, “So do I still have my privacy?”
It’s a simple matter of tweaking the settings on your Timeline or customising each post you publish. Or is it? Can your privacy settings ensure that your hashtagged posts won’t be forced onto hashtag searches? For now, Facebook assures us that they won’t. But let’s keep a close eye on this one.
Another downside to the hashtag trend is, well, the ‘trendiness’. Compared to Twitter, Facebook hashtags are a meagre form of finding out what’s hot and what’s not. FB’s mode of cataloguing hashtag discussions differ greatly. On Twitter, any tweet with a hashtag will appear on search results for that specific hashtag term. On Facebook, ONLY posts with hashtags appear on searches. Comments are still excluded from the game.
The last limitation I found for hashtags is its lack of mobile-friendly features. As of now, it’s yet to be functional on tablets and smartphones through Facebook App. With the number of people digging into social mobile, I’m confident that Facebook is eagerly fixing this glitch right now.
Does this have the potential to be BIGGER than Twitter?
As social networks proliferated, we’ve developed our own stereotypes for each platform. Twitter defines quick bursts of thought and activity updates from people. Facebook defines engagement as liking, sharing, and commenting.
Both are very different communication mediums. Now that they’re both into hashtags, will there be a subtle rivalry?
Analysts say that consumers have the potential to say MORE about themselves in their posts using hashtags. Why? Unlike Twitter, there’s no character limit on Facebook, therefore users are more inclined to use hashtags as frequently or prominently as they want.
An Outsider’s Conclusion
It could take a while for people to get acquainted to the concept of Facebook #hashtags. Although marketers are jumping straight for this bandwagon, most social sharers are still frolicking on where trending conversations are happening: Twitter.
For brands though, this little symbol # is a powerful search tool that you can take advantage of. Find more info about your consumers, access your target market, or promote your brand in ways you’ve never dreamed of.
So is the hashtag a dream come true for us?