Today to the delight of many marketers Facebook announced the release of hashtags. The new clickable links will pop open a new stream with public updates around each specific term. While hashtags seem like a great idea, there are quite a few obstacles in the way of #success for this new feature.
Why Not Search?
While hashtags work well for simple social sites like Twitter (140 characters) or Instagram (a photo with little to no text,) they come off as unwarranted on a site that includes in-depth Open Graph Search like Facebook. Facebook is far and away the most sophisticated social networking site … and it’s not even close. The power that Facebook has is in leveraging the overwhelming data, connections and interests that users input. Instead of forcing users to classify what a specific post is about, Facebook could piggyback off of Graph Search and build out their search to include updates, the highest shared links on a topic, or even an interests page around specific items.
The requirement of the hashtag goes against the notion of Graph Search. Why not just let me see who’s talking about a topic by tossing into the main search bar and choose to view by friends/public/page. Facebook is one of the only networks who didn’t require the usage of hashtags, but went the route anyway.
Privacy Hinders Effectiveness
The biggest concern that I have with hashtags on Facebook is privacy. Not a concern in privacy leaks, rather that there may be to much. The majority of Twitter users are public – not the case with Facebook. If i’m looking to see a real-time accurate conversation about a specific topic, having more data is valuable.
Simply put, Twitter has a much higher percentage of updates on any given topic. With the privacy of Facebook posts, I know that I would not trust Facebook hashtags as the premier source of unfiltered discussion on a topic.
Hashtags Are Anti-Facebook Page
Another advantage that Facebook has is that brand pages are rich, robust and can act like a website for many. When you head to a specific topic page (like the NBA) fan discussions can be seen. Unlike Twitter, conversations and reactions can be viewed on a specific page. Now users will be required to utilize both hashtags and tagging to tie in brands.
Instead of bringing in brands and pages, the conversations will be on separate hashtag streams.
They Are Inferior
Right now, the hashtag search is far inferior to Twitter search. Alright, alright – it’s only the first day, but gaining adoption is key. Right now, the hashtags simply act as a stream, rather than helping users find top content within a tag.
Updates in different languages, empty-unliked posts are all currently showing. Poor results will breed poor adoption.
Get ready for an influx of brands and Pages in the hashtag results. In stark contrast to profiles, pages are intrinsically public. Due to the privacy issues on posts, Pages will have a big opening to capture hashtag traffic.
In the majority of hashtag searches performed, Pages where a staple in the results – great for brands, questionably helpful and somewhat awkward for users.
While Facebook hashtags are noteworthy, they currently have a long way to go to become a valuable tool for Facebook users. #Sorry Facebook, but i’ll be keeping my public conversations on Twitter.