So yet another bit of news from the social giant: this time it’s that they’re looking into bringing the old Twitter favorite, the hashtag, onto the site. Now, aside from the inevitable onslaught of ‘Twitter vs. Facebook’ rhetoric that will be (and is being) bandied about, this move could be a big deal for the people Facebook loves the most: the advertisers.
Currently, advertising on Facebook can be a bit of a minefield. We at Silicon Beach conducted a survey into views on Facebook advertising and the results are largely quite damning.
We asked ‘Does advertising interfere with your Facebook experience?’ and these were the results:
An overwhelming number of those who responded said advertising interfered at least sometimes.
So would hashtags make any kind of difference to advertising strategies on the site? Would they interfere more or less than current ads? Well, let’s take look at the potential impact.
Probably the most obvious (and simple) way in which hashtags could be employed for advertising purposes on Facebook is to promote them in a similar way to the current promoted/sponsored posts.
Say a company is running a competition. They could promote their hashtag, #suchandsuchcomp, in posts that would appear in the newsfeed. How is that different to the current system of paid promotion? Well, clicking on the hashtag will reveal anyone using it in conversation, therefore providing a great tracking feature for advertisers and making it easier for users to find all associated info.
More importantly though, it means being able to tap into a previously untouched group who may not have liked the brand or have friends who like it, without the impersonality of the ‘old’ style promoted post.
This then leads into using hashtags for full campaigns, as happens perpetually on Twitter. With enough user uptake and promotion, combined with a clever strategy and a dash of luck, hashtags could be a great way for brands to improve exposure on Facebook.
If a hashtag goes viral, it means being exposed to an enormous captive audience that even Twitter can’t boast. The significant word there though is if! The potential impact a successful campaign could have is huge but there also needs to be some thought put in.
There has been significant backlash to sponsored stories and promoted posts and it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to imagine the same happening for promoted hashtag campaigns.
In our survey we asked ‘If a sponsored story annoyed you, what action would you take?’ and these were the results:
As you can see 35% of people asked would report an ‘annoying’ sponsored story as spam and another 21% would leave a (presumably negative) comment on the company page or on the post itself. If this active negativity was to transfer into hashtag ads, the concept may not work as well as Facebook might hope.
So is there any other way they could monetize the hashtag element without inviting the same level of disdain as current ads?
This is one possible solution to the problem of negative perception towards ads (although that negative perception has never stopped Facebook before). When a user searches for a hashtag, let’s say #MUFC, they will be directed to a separate page that lists any conversations containing that hashtag. Adverts then could be placed on these pages, and even targeted so that they are relevant to hashtag.
So if someone searches for #MUFC they could find an ad on the aggregation page for a vintage Man. Utd replica shirt seller, or whatever it may be.
At first glance this would appear less invasive and more relevant to the user. The real question is though, if Facebook’s main concern was the user, would they even be considering hashtags?
The hashtag symbol is also known as the pound symbol in some quarters. That sounds about right for Facebook.