As it is announced this week that Facebook is following in the footsteps of Twitter and introducing a hashtag system to its multi-billion pound social network, it begs the question, where does one start and the other begin?
Barely a fortnight after news of its Verified Pages broke (a feature not dissimilar to Twitter which allows users to establish the real accounts of brands and celebrities from duplicate profiles), the firm has decided to take advantage of the tried and trusted hashtagging idea. Made famous by Twitter and already incorporated by Google Plus, Pinterest and Linkedin, it appears that Mark Zuckerburg’s creation might be the last big name to jump on the bandwagon. Designed to allow people to group comments by topic, it is expected to hold benefits for both users and advertisers.
It enables users to join in with online conversations as events unfold in real time. For advertisers and brands on Facebook, this could have real potential. Marketers can enter their preferred subject, preceded by the # key into the search bar. For example a company specialising in tennis clothing and equipment could type #Wimbledon to find enthusiasts of the sports discussing the latest match, predicting outcomes and analysing play. This provides not only a list of highly relevant users but also the opportunity to interact directly with your target audience on a topic of mutual interest.
It also presents the average user with the chance to join debates and discussions on breaking news, political elections and entertainment news.
The only downside is that users can still limit who can view their hashtagged posts. This could prevent a number of potential customers being reached by brands on Facebook. However, it is likely that many people will leave this open, and that many more will likely not be aware of the option to change their settings.
Somewhat inevitably however, Facebook has already received criticism for adopting an approach so synonymous with Twitter. It comes as comments gather over Facebook’s increasingly chronologically based newsfeed. Less like the old algorithm based feed and more like Twitter’s timely posts, Facebook is now more likely to post updates in order of submission.
It will be interesting to see how far advertisers go to take advantage of these new hashtag and the reception it receives from its 693 million active users.