Facebook Adopts Hashtags

Yesterday Facebook announced – as they do about every two weeks or so – a big change. The popular social networking channel is about to adopt hashtags into their API to track trends. Facebook has said the change is to better facilitate “public conversation.” The process of making hashtags clickable will rollout over several months. Currently, Facebook has stated that hashtags will not be for sale as advertising opportunities.

And we all know that’s code for finding an easier way to sell advertising, right?

Facebook has long been the most valuable tool for social marketers and the most loathed. The network’s long history of pulling the rug out from marketers has both excited and devastated the social marketing community time and time again.

I remember busting out in tears when I saw the change from Fan pages to Pages you Like. I was crying because I was holding the magazine with the media buy that distinctly said “Become Our Fan” and had the stinkin’ icon.  Of course, it is not Facebook’s responsibility to send out memos concerning changes before we purchase ads. It’s not the job of an ostensibly free marketing tool to help me manage my budget. Which so, so super sucks.

A Quick Note About Privacy

Just for the sake of getting this out there

As many have learned from Instagram, even if you have maximum privacy settings on your account. The moment you add a hashtag to a post it is then searchable to the public. For most social channels, this is the case. The shining exception is Twitter. If you tell Twitter you want a private account, they maintain that. You can hashtag the holy heck out of your posts and they will never appear in a public feed for that topic. Just something to keep in the back of your head.

Marketing Implications

A source over at Twitter HQ let me in on the following secret regarding Facebook and hashtags: “Well it’s very effective, so I’m not surprised they did it.”  Yes, undisclosed source. Agreed.

How and why is it effective? For any noobs out there, hashtags provide a way to categorize or track certain topics. Hashtags were originally invented by Chris Messina as an eavesdropping mechanism. Messina is like the original social media J Edgar Hoover. Insofar as he sort of created the first way to “listen” on social channels.

This change to the Facebook API not only provides the potential for great trend tracking (think about the blackout during the Super Bowl and how Oreo got all up on that with a super clever tweet/ad), but it implements a proven way of promoting community engagement.

Get Ready to Revise Your Reports

Just the thought of having to reconfigure my reports again makes me want to stab Facebook in the eye. Which, yes, I realize that personifying Facebook in this sense is completely self-serving. Indulge me.

It will actually be great to gauge the SEO conversation on Facebook. We get a lot of traffic to our site from Facebook, so I am genuinely curious as to what trends I may see. The thing is, with the privacy stuff, I may end up just getting a bunch of very non-relevant content. Much like my Google Alerts for SEO. Go ahead, set one up, you’ll love digging through it every morning for the stuff that is actually related to SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION.

For now, I can just brace myself for the rollout. As it the case with Open Graph and some other recent Facebook innovations, I likely won’t see clickable and searchable hashtags come across my desk for a few months.

So really, is this all much ado about nothing? Perhaps. But just as possible this is the toe dip into changing the social networking site from being “Friend” based to becoming far more like Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. In recent months Facebook has experienced a decline in use, especially from younger demographics. Those users have found Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr to provide a better social environment for whatever it is that young people do online.

Bully each other I assume. And watch Twerking videos.

Side note: If I was on Tumblr this is the only thing I’d look at all day. All day, son.

In addition to that, you have to remember that the Baby Boomers have found their way to Facebook. It is just awkward to have your mother liking your posts. And most people consider you a sociopath if you unfriend your mother. But since dear old mom spells it “Tumbler,” she’ll never find you there, ya little Manson. (Jokes. Thems is jokes, kids.)

But seriously, my Aunt just posted this on my Facebook page.

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 1.52.59 PM

All caps? Really. I’m not even going to get into the usage of U/UR. And if we’re being honest, she made me sound like a tramp. I’m actually not having an orgy to celebrate my birthday, but rather spending it at home with my husband, son and dog.

That alone sums this up entirely.

Facebook, you are walking a dangerous line here with your hashtags. And Aunt Connie, you are on notice.