Public Conversations on Facebook
now supports hashtags, allowing users to find and follow popular and topical conversations on the site. Two of Facebook’s key rivals in the world of social media, Google+ and Twitter, have already incorporated hashtagging into their sites. Facebook affiliate Instagram, the photo sharing app, has also had hashtags for some time, so it is no surprise that Facebook has finally introduced them. 

Microblogging site Twitter revolutionised the onsite search format by introducing hashtags early on in its development, allowing users to easily find and follow conversations, despite the amount of data published on the site every second.

Due to its early adoption of hashtagging, Twitter is now where users go to find out about the top stories and breaking news from around the web, and even around the world: Facebook have introduced hashtags in an attempt to compete with Twitter in this respect. According to the announcement post on the Facebook Newsroom page, people are already discussing popular television on the site:

During primetime television alone, there are between 88 and 100 million Americans engaged on Facebook - roughly a Super Bowl-sized audience every single night. The recent "Red Wedding" episode of Game of Thrones, received over 1.5 million mentions on Facebook, representing a significant portion of the 5.2 million people who watched the show. And this year's Oscars buzz reached an all-time high on Facebook with over 66.5 million interactions, including likes, comments, and posts.

However, up until now there has been no “simple way to see the larger view of what's happening or what people are talking about”. Hashtags are only the first step in Facebook’s plan: the social media giants intend to roll “out a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people, and topics”.

According to the announcement post, hashtags allow users to:

• Search for a specific hashtag from your search bar. For example, #NBAFinals.
• Click on hashtags that originate on other services, such as Instagram.
• Compose posts directly from the hashtag feed and search results

Users can still control who sees their posts, even if they contain hashtags, which does limit the service slightly. However, hashtags may encourage users to post public content more frequently, increasing user interaction beyond their friendship group and liked pages.

Introducing Hashtags on Facebook

Hashtags will also help increase brand interaction. Without hashtags, users were limited to seeing posts by their friends, the pages they had liked, and the pages their friends had liked – as well, of course, as any promoted posts. With hashtags, users are more likely to see posts from outside their immediate circle, but just as likely to see posts which interest them: it is the user, after all, who has to click on the hashtag to view the conversation, displaying a willingness to actively engage with the content.

Facebook has published a post on the Facebook Studio pages, advising marketers how they could and should be using hashtags to promote their brands. Here is what the company believes marketers need to know about the new feature:

  • If you are already using hashtags in an advertising campaign through other channels, you can amplify these campaigns by including your hashtags in Facebook advertising. The same creative best practices on Facebook still apply – compelling copy and photography that is in the brand voice works best.
  • Any hashtags that you use on other platforms that are connected to your Facebook Page will be automatically clickable and searchable on Facebook.
  • Like other Facebook marketing tools, hashtags allow you to join and drive the conversations happening about your business. We recommend you search for and view real-time public conversations and test strategies to drive those conversations using hashtags. 
  • Hashtags do not impact your distribution or engagement in News Feed on either desktop or mobile. We recommend you continue to focus on your existing campaigns to drive your most important business objectives.

In the post, Facebook has also gone into more detail about the features they intend to release over the next few months to help drive conversations on the site, revealing that trending hashtags are in the pipeline. There is as yet no word on whether hashtags will be monetized or not, but if they are, it will presumably be in a fashion similar to Twitter’s Promoted Trends.

Do you think hashtags will work on Facebook?