Hashtags land on Facebook - so what does it mean for marketers?

Over the last few months there has been speculation over Facebook’s plans to introduce the hashtag – and last week the change was rolled out on the platform.

Over the last few months there has been speculation over Facebook's plans to introduce the hashtag - and last week the change was rolled out on the platform.

Originally a Twitter feature, the humble hashtag seems to further confirm Facebook's aspirations to take a piece of the social search action Twitter currently dominates…and it's no surprise that the move follows the introduction of Graph Search which allows users to search data shared on Facebook if privacy settings allow.

Will they take off?

Like Twitter, (and subsequently Instagram), hashtags will form clickable links when used at the start of a word - leading to a list of other posts shared using that hashtag on Facebook.

While on Twitter hashtags help quickly scan public opinion on trending topics, Facebook could be held back by the fact that those infamous privacy settings won't display results for users who don't want to be found…meaning that unless this changes, Twitter will still be the best place to go for real-time insights from the masses.

Our research returned many results shared from Facebook-owned photo sharing network Instagram - so hashtags could ultimately be a neat way to keep up with Instagram without leaving your newsfeed - but we doubt that is Facebook's primary goal.

How will this benefit brands on Facebook?

Obviously the first benefit of hashtags is that brands want to be found, and a few hashtags can't hurt when it comes to extending the reach of social content - especially, it seems, if bold Instagram-style images are shared . It could even help drive vast new audiences if hashtags take off.

However, with some sources reporting that Facebook has introduced hashtags to get involved with the big advertising bucks associated with real-time marketing, especially prevalent during live events or popular TV shows that get a lot of people talking at once. The real benefit here could be more targeted advertising and the chance to open conversations with consumers in a similar way to Twitter's advertising solutions.

Of course it is early days, but the question on which the success of the hashtag seems to hinge on is this: will Facebook change their privacy settings, guarded fiercely by many of the platforms users, to maximise social search capabilities?

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