Facebook’s promised release of Hashtagshas started to roll out. This opens up a whole new front for Facebook in terms of data collection and will change the way users use the platform. But, what does this mean for marketers, and how can we take advantage?
In essence, the hashtag functionality is generally as you’d expect it to look. The key with this rollout though is not in the how, but in the why.
Firstly, this gives Facebook yet another rich data trove to add to its collection. Until now, Facebook has had access to the following data on each user:
- Relationship status
- Things you’re interested in (from pages you like, giving a rich data source on preferences including brands, bands, food, clothing, places, teams, celebrities, and so on)
- And recently (in the USA) what categories you fall into with regard to your purchases in the real world
Now with hashtags, Facebook can begin to collect a much larger data source – what you talk about and what your sentiments are.
Targeting Becomes More Powerful
From an advertiser perspective, this will undoubtedly create an even more powerful targeting system with options for targeting based on conversation and hashtag usage.
One example use of combining interest data and hashtag data in advertising could be in targeting “superfans” – so for example, you could target people who like Lady Gaga and use hashtags related to her frequently, indicating an active fan rather than a hollow like.
There is also the potential for Facebook to move to a more real-time marketing environment, with advertisers being able to target hashtagged conversations, and being able to target users based on their reactions to live events and topics.
The timing of this move shouldn’t be underestimated. Twitter has very recently released their advertising product as a self-service environment, which is in direct competition to Facebook’s own. By adding hashtags and laying the groundwork for their inclusion in their ad system, Facebook could cut off Twitter’s one targeting advantage straight away.
Vying For Real Time Conversations
Another area where it changes things for Facebook is in the experiential marketing field. Twitter is the home of event comment and conversation due to the hashtag allowing strangers to discuss the event they are at or observing. Facebook is hoping to muscle in on this conversation, as, at present, it’s almost completely owned by Twitter.
Whether users will be happy to use Facebook for event content is unclear – in a business/conference event Twitter will likely still be the conversation host; however, with more lifestyle/entertainment-based events and experiences, Facebook may be able to take market share from Twitter.
Hashtag Jacking For Brands
For content marketers, this also represents a big opportunity. Getting your Facebook content distributed substantially outside of your connections or extended network currently requires either a highly viral post or a chunk of ad spend. Now, the opportunity to jump on a hashtag trend and to get exposure outside of your network is alive on Facebook.
This is yet to be tested and largely depends on the users’ uptake in hashtags (which should be increased by displaying trending hashtags like Twitter); however, the opportunity has been created. The identification of hashtag trends, or finding out what the next trend will be, will be a valuable skill. Amending your content schedule to allow for incorporation of these hashtags should allow your reach to increase beyond your network, in theory creating higher engagement and bringing in new fans for your Facebook page.
The new hashtag data will complete the picture for Facebook, allowing a better understanding of content without having to use complex semantic algorithms as users voluntarily flag up meaning and key messages through the use of the hashtag. The richness of hashtag data is clear, and Facebook’s inclusion of it within their platform, whilst not a complete game-changer, is yet another big move for Facebook in its post-IPO phase.
Hopefully hashtag content data can be incorporated into Facebook insights in the near future to allow marketers to see the impact of hashtags on their content strategy. Measurement, as always, will be key. Being able to analyze the hashtags used by yourself and others will be crucial in making content decisions and in judging the success of your efforts.
Example Case Study
Let’s put these ideas into practice. Say there’s a big campaign to promote an interactive infographic for a client. Previously, our focus would be on reaching out to influencers, doing social posting and paid Facebook content amplification in the Newsfeed — targeted to users with interest sets relevant to the content.
Now, though, the hashtag is crucial to the whole strategy. Choosing a hashtag relevant to both platforms (to cover cross-posters) that has the ability to achieve impressions — and including it in all communications — will naturally improve reach.
The campaign mix now would still include influencer outreach, social posting, and Facebook content amplification (based on interest sets), but would now focus more on the hashtags being used, and would potentially have less of a focus on the paid amplification.
Ideally, going forward, we would be able to supplement the campaign with a fan acquisition push targeting users who are using the campaign hashtag but who aren’t current fans of the client’s Facebook page, giving brands a method of capturing engagement that lasts much longer than the campaign period.
- Facebook hashtags are here; if you’re a Facebook page admin, make sure you use them, monitor what seems to be popular and incorporate them into your content strategy where appropriate.
- Facebook’s data just got even richer; Facebook now has the complete data picture with the ability to begin to understand the content of posts and sentiment.
- Expect new ad targeting functions; Facebook will no doubt be launching some new ad targeting functionality on the back of this in the not too distant future. This is likely to include more real-time elements, or, at minimum, hashtag-based targeting.
- Facebook wants more conversation; this move allows Facebook to attempt to take more event- and business-based conversation from Twitter as the use of hashtags allows strangers to align on a topic or share a common experience which was previously impossible on Facebook.
- This is a big content marketing opportunity; the ability to increase the reach of your posts by using trending hashtags is brand new for Facebook marketers. Watch, measure and jump on the trend if it’s appropriate to your brand — the results have the potential to be big.
About The Author: Simon Penson is Managing Director and Founder of Zazzle Media, a UK based data-informed, content led digital marketing agency quickly earning a reputation as a global authority on "content marketing". See more articles by Simon Penson