Two weeks ago, Facebook announced that it was going to introduce hash-tags into its service. This feels like an inevitable addition – Twitter and Google+ have had them for some time.
But how will hash-tags be different on Facebook, and what are the implications for marketers and Facebook users?
Will it be different?
One of the reasons behind the success of the hash-tag on Twitter is that you can use them to see new connections and new content. However, Facebook is a very different network. The vast majority of Twitter users have a public account, whereas the opposite is true of Facebook – most people are keen to keep their posts private.
This causes a problem. If you search for a hash-tag, you will see company pages (which are public) and messages from people who you are connected to, or whose privacy settings allow their messages to be viewed publicly. So, you won’t get a near-whole-world view of a subject like you do with Twitter.
Implications for User
As mentioned above, due to privacy restrictions, if you search for a topic, you will only see a limited number of results. And I think that search results are going to be dominated by company pages, as their access is public. This means that from a user’s perspective, the results might be a little salesy or corporate – not good, and certainly not like Twitter. And if this happens, then users will stop using hash-tags entirely.
Implications for Marketing
For marketers, hash-tags seem like a great idea. They work great on other networks and allow marketers to track conversations. But I think that the structure of Facebook means that you will only see some of the conversation, not all of it…which will actually not help marketers.
I guess that Facebook is hoping that users will see the benefits of hash-tags and start to relax their account privacy settings, but I think the opposite will happen – if someone sees their posts appear in a search, they may be encouraged to tighten up their privacy settings. For this reason, I fear that user adoption will be low in the medium term, which may mean that the idea never gets off the ground.
I can’t see how hash-tags add anything to the user experience that the Facebook search function doesn’t already do. And I think that hash-tags don’t suit the fundamentals of Facebook from a privacy perspective. Also, I worry that search results which contain lots of brand pages (not individuals) is a real threat to whether this even gets off the ground. I fear that Facebook hash-tags might be a #fail.