On June 12th, Facebook announced the rollout of clickable hashtags (#) within status updates and page posts. Long a staple of Twitter, hashtags help organize conversations around specific topics, which makes it easier for users to discover and contribute to these conversations.
How it Works
Similar to Twitter, any word in a post preceded by the hash symbol (#) now becomes a clickable link. The way the results will appear depends on how a user interacts with a hashtag.
If the user clicks on the hashtag from a post in their timeline, Facebook will open up a lightbox that will gray out the rest of the user’s screen to show the results.
Posts from friends can appear, as well as posts from any other individual on Facebook whose privacy settings allow for their posts to be seen by others.
Even if a user’s Facebook language settings are set to English, they may see posts in other languages as long as the hashtag within the post is an English language word.
A second way to get hashtag results on Facebook is to use graph search. If you type a word in with a # in front of it, the first option in the drop down menu is now the hashtag. Clicking on this will change your newsfeed results to all posts containing the hashtag.
Clickable hashtags currently only work on desktop devices, so mobile users will not be able to click through.
No advertising is available yet on hashtags. This means that although brand posts may show up organically, they will not appear as sponsored page posts. It is likely that this will change in the future.
Clickable hashtags create additional opportunities for conversation and interaction on Facebook. Hashtags have the potential to fundamentally change how people utilize the platform and with whom they engage. The primary Facebook experience has always been to interact with friends. Now, with hashtags, users will be able to engage in real-time with virtual strangers who are participating in similar conversations.
The implications will likely be most prevalent in the context of real-time conversation related to TV programs and breaking news, two topics that tend to be major discussion points on Twitter. Indeed, hashtags are likely to help Facebook to stake a claim in Social TV, a world that Twitter has effectively owned among the major social players (particularly with the recent launch of TV targeting). Whether or not Facebook will look to monetize hashtags as a Social TV play for advertisers remains to be seen.
Businesses should begin adding hashtags to their status updates to make them indexable. However, consideration should be given to what and how many hashtags to use. Already, some people have begun hashing nearly every word in a post, which makes the content feel very spammy even when valuable
- Only hash the words within a post that are the most relevant, such as the main theme of the post.
- Keeping hashtags limited to five or less if possible will help keep the post looking clean. Also, consider the fact that mobile users will not be able to click through, so heavy hashtag volume may annoy them.
- Similar to Twitter, develop consistent hashtags to thread conversations together on multiple posts.
- Capitalize on real-time hot topics when appropriate, as this will lead to more organic impressions of your post.
Facebook has stated that it will roll out more features around hashtags in the coming weeks and months including trending hashtags. While it is not clear how this will work, it will likely impact both newsfeed appearance and advertising opportunities.
While interaction on Facebook has typically centered on a user’s network of friends, the hashtag feature will likely spur increased interaction with non-friends participating in relevant conversations. Now when a user or brand puts a hashtag into their posts, other users can click on it, leading to an index of other posts containing the same hashtag. While the hashtag feature is currently available to only a small portion of Facebook users, the social giant will likely be making it more widely available over the coming months.