Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why Facebook is Rolling out Hashtags?

Last week, Facebook started to roll out its release of Hashtags, opening up an entire new front for the company in terms of data collection. It is also estimated to change the way current users use the platform.

Facebook’s data collection strategy has been developed since it is founded in 2004. Until now, the company has had access to each user’s age, location, gender, relationship status, sexuality, education, language, workplace, things you are interested in and what categories you fall into regarding purchases happening in the real world. Now with the new launch of hashtags, Facebook is able to collect larger amounts of data, events that you are caring about and your sentiments.

Obviously, this new move can help Facebook go to a more real-time marketing environment, since advertisers can track hashtagged conversations and users based on their interactions with live events or certain topics. The new hashtag data will complete the picture of 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 the company’s inclusion of it within their platform, though not a complete game-changer, is yet another big move in its post-IPO phase.[i]

Another look at this new action is why Facebook wants to edge in its competitor Twitter’s Hashtags.[ii] Some articles refer that it’s all about the second-screen audience. Data from Nielsen’s latest research shows that 46% of smartphone owners and 43% of tablet owners use their devices as second screens while watching TV every day. And nearly half of that activity on tablets, one-third on smartphones is directly related to the shows they are watching.[iii]

For a long period of time, Facebook has lost a lot of potential ad dollars over to Twitter, given the fact that any night during prime-time television hours, there are between 88 million and 100 million people active on Facebook. If these users have access to follow content more easily on the social network, Facebook’s advertising people will have an easier way to sell against said hashtags.

Then, here comes the observations and questions. Currently, Facebook’s hashtags are only rolled out on the web pages, not on mobiles yet, while Twitter has already scored on both platforms in terms of hashtagged events social engagements. How much willingness do these people have switching from one platform to another?

Another question is related with Facebook’s adoption. How will it improve Hashtags’ drawback of the opacity that the language of hashtags and @symbols creates? I personally think it will make some difference to lots of non-techie users.


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