When Facebook announced its plan to enable hashtags, many may have thought the popular social network was simply hopping on the bandwagon. With Twitter and Instagram being notorious for hashtags, Facebook users were already tagging posts and statuses to no avail, allowing the network ample opportunity to extend its reach even further by embracing the popular trend. Yet, while hashtags enable users to engage in conversations and interact with the rest of the Facebook community, this tool also provides brands with an interesting new way to advertise and potentially generate positive social ROI. To explore the benefits of Facebook hashtags, 1to1 Media spoke with Adit Abhyankar, executive director at Visual IQ, to examine just how companies can successfully embrace Facebook's latest addition:1to1 Media: Please explain the significance of Facebook hashtags. When Facebook users post hashtags in their statuses, exactly what do they mean? What purpose do they serve?
Adit Abhyankar: Facebook's hashtags make user-generated content searchable and provide a mechanism for communities in general to self-categorize their content as they see fit. For users, hashtags are a great way to stay up-to-date on topics and themes that matter most to them via a newsfeed-like stream of organized content. For advertisers, Facebook's hashtags provide the opportunity to target their ads to those following or participating in certain conversations.
1to1: How can the introduction of the Facebook hashtag make it easier for brands to provide more targeted, dynamic engagement?
AA: Hashtags add richness to Facebook's unstructured data, and make it easier for advertisers to use the platform to provide more targeted and more dynamic content that has a greater impact in driving response.
1to1: How can brands leverage hashtags to engage with consumers in real time?
AA: Facebook's hashtags allow advertisers to capitalize on a phenomenon that was almost impossible to leverage well before: real-time events that cause a huge spike in interest for a short period of time. Because there are no limits on the amount of characters used, Facebook's hashtags are particularly useful for advertisers looking to organize and build trends around a quickly moving phenomenon.
1to1: What opportunities and challenges do Facebook hashtags bring to the digital advertising space?
AA: One way advertisers could potentially use hashtags in the future is to buy advertising on Facebook targeted to people searching for, or clicking on, a particular term, and employing them on their own brand pages. The challenge for advertisers and agencies is to be able to reach in almost real-time with relevant creative and offers that align to the hashtagged events. This requires a complete streamlining of the "creative brief" process to something much more dynamic. At the same time advertisers need to be careful not to spam users with messaging around events that are only peripherally related to, or worse, completely unrelated to, the brand.
1to1: How can brands go about embracing this new tool to their advantage?
AA: By targeting people through hashtags, advertisers are able to have a tremendous impact with very little spend. Advertisers can anticipate events and news that are aligned with their brand and capitalize on the broader interest "wave" that they can ride with their advertising. Integrating Facebook advertising with all other paid media channels will allow advertisers to not only build new campaigns that capitalize on fast-moving news and events, but also measure how and where the response to those campaigns is showing up. In conjunction with cross-channel attribution technology, advertisers can see if a particular hashtag term is driving increased search response on paid media or direct traffic to their site.