What do Facebook hashtags mean for marketers? The short answer: Nothing, yet. That's because they aren't rolling out to all users for a while.
Once they do, there will be substantial implications for marketers and brands.
For now, it's mostly a matter of user experience. Users can now search Facebook more easily—combined with Graph Search, Facebook is making strides here—and, obviously, this move makes content discovery much easier.
A few months from now, when more (or all) users have the ability to use hashtags on Facebook, what will the rub be for marketers? Here are a few things that come to mind:
It'll be easier to track 'campaign' conversations on Facebook.
You know those campaign hashtags that brands use on Facebook--the ones they listed on all those Super Bowl ads this year? Well, those will actually be useful on Facebook once the hashtags are rolled out. Obviously, the volume won't be as great on Facebook for most brands (there are far more tweets than status updates), but this should help brands looking to accurately track conversations around campaigns down the road, especially those without access to paid monitoring tools.
Your Twitter chat potential just expanded.
Brands that either sponsor or organize Twitter chats will be able to open up a whole new door to Facebook—again, arguably a more engaged (and larger) community. Of course, brands can do this now with tools like Shoutlet, but many brands don't have access to paid tools like that. With hashtags, brands that participate or organize Twitter chats will be able to have those same chats on Facebook. Of course, coordinating that might be tough, but I'm sure someone will develop a tool to fit the need.
You will be able to pay to trend—eventually.
Trending topics/hashtags will probably come to Facebook soon. They're not there yet, obviously, but I'm sure it'll happen. Trending topics on Twitter are so popular—and it's another great way for Facebook to enhance content discovery. Plus, you will probably be able to pay to be included (as on Twitter). Whatever they can make money on, they probably will.
Once they enable mobile use, possibilities will expand.
Here's a curious thing: Facebook didn't enable mobile use of hashtags at the outset of the launch. That's funny, because as we all know mobile phone use is exploding. Capturing real-time conversations largely means capturing conversations on the go—not just in front of the TV, which is what Facebook is probably after here. Those mobile conversations are key for brands: customers at events, customers near their stores shopping, customers in their stores shopping. With hashtags, they'll all be easier to track—and respond to (again, provided customers actually use the hashtag, which as we know is a big leap).
What do you think? What will be the major marketing implications of hashtags on Facebook?