Facebook recently introduced a new feature to their social networking site: Hashtags. At this point, the new feature has only been rolled out to a portion of Facebook users but full access for all users will come in the near future. It is said that Facebook introduced hashtags to allow users to participate in public conversations beyond their circle of (Facebook) friends.
According to Search Engine Watch 
, the introduction of hashtags in Facebook will allow users to:
- Search for a hashtag from the search bar
- Click on hashtags from other sites, such as Instagram and Twitter, and find the Facebook results
- Compose posts directly from the hashtag feed and search results
So, how could this new feature affect social media marketing? Here are my thoughts:
- This is a positive step for social media marketers because it allows for cross-platform promotion of hashtags. Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+ and others have long supported the functionality, but Facebook, often a brand's largest social following, was not able to take advantage of this feature. Now that Facebook is on board this opens up a new method of brand discovery on Facebook.
- I don’t think this move is just an attempt by Facebook to keep up with the Joneses. While that is certainly an added bonus and complements the less ballyhooed Follow function, this relates to a larger strategy headlined by Graph Search. Facebook is a treasure trove of information but historically there hasn’t been an easy way for users to access it, which has shifted conversations to other platforms (namely Twitter).
- Although Facebook recently announced they are reducing the number of ad types, if any type of meaningful usage ends up happening you can guarantee they will offer some sort of paid placement similar to Twitter’s Promoted Hashtags feature.
- One aspect to this I haven’t heard much discussion around is the impact it will have as a result of users who link their Twitter activity to Facebook. Previously, users who utilized this feature would have their hashtags rendered useless in the Facebook NewsFeed. Now, this native Twitter activity will allow Facebook users to click on the hashtag and be served Facebook hashtag results. This could lead to more interaction of those posts, which could result in higher EdgeRank for those post types, which would mean, ironically, Twitter usage could be framed as positive for Facebook in a roundabout way.
- This should be another impetus for personal users to check their privacy settings. Any hashtag you use will be available in hashtag search to those with whom you have shared. If your Facebook profile and posts are set to public, this is another way for others to easily find potentially NSFW-type content.
- From a personal user standpoint, I wonder if this will change how people change their privacy settings on individual posts. The Facebook announcement  uses #NBAFinals as an example, and this is a perfect use case for myself. Normally for events like this I may post once or twice on Facebook but the majority of my social interactions take place on Twitter so I can take part in a shared experience with a larger audience. There was simply no easy way for me to find out what people beyond my Facebook friends were thinking about any particular event or story. Now, I can use a hashtag, set that status update to public, and experience Facebook in a way more similar to Twitter. The question, though, is will I and others do so or is it already too late?
What are your thoughts about Facebook hashtags? Leave a comment below!