Facebook’s Adoption of Hashtags Will Lead to More Relevant Ad Targeting

March 28th, 2013

by Lukus Blackford

Facebook is reportedly working on adopting the hashtag, one of Twitter’s more creative features. The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is testing out an implementation that would enable users to click on a hashtag and be sent to a page where conversations around that particular topic would be grouped, which would be very similar to how Twitter search functions.

The advertising advantage with such an implementation would be, theoretically, the power to serve ads to Facebook users according to the hashtag conversations they follow. Let’s say, a user follows a hashtag about #runningshoes. Companies like Nike or Adidas could serve ads to anyone following the #runningshoes hashtag. While this could be viewed as a rather blatant copy of Twitter’s implementation, it makes a lot of sense given the ad-relevance aspect and subsequent revenue opportunity.

With CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of Facebook as a “personalized newspaper” – stated when announcing a new version of news feed where users can select streams exclusively containing photos, events or music-related content – the implementation of hashtags makes sense.

Privacy concerns pose a bigger hurdle for Facebook than Twitter in regards to publishing user content. However, since the vast majority of Facebook user posts are private, this means that the public posts eligible to be shown on hypothetical hashtag pages would only represent a small percentage of chatter taking place on the platform.

Another strategy that is undoubtedly in play here is the valuable data that can be gathered and leveraged for the build-out of Facebook’s graph search product with ads. While graph search relies on “likes” as being indicative of overall interest, this ends up being a flawed signal, considering that clicks on like buttons can be subjective. However, posting with a hashtag would likely be considered a more meaningful indication of attraction – potentially building graph search into a very useful, and very lucrative product.

Do you have questions about Facebook advertising for your business or thoughts on hashtags in Facebook? We’d love to hear from you!

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