When Facebook implemented hashtags in June 2013, it created a flurry of interest in the social marketing world, and my article on it got solid interest. Nevertheless the question then was and still is now: Is Facebook really serious about it ? Will consumers follow ? Could this attempt quickly join other ‘copycats’ initiatives like ‘Poke’ (copycat of Snapchat), ‘Facebook deals’ (copycat of Groupon), and others in the cemetery, of half-baked, late entries into a game ?
Flash forward to January 2014 and you could argue the pessimists were right – we still see relatively little ‘native’ usage of hashtags on Facebook beyond a core base of users, or users who simple get their tweets to be on Facebook (like I do). Was it due to a lack of interest or because they were late, or because the feature was half-baked into the core product ? A combination of all of this.
On this ‘baking issue’, Facebook is now bringing what is perceived as really complementary to hashtags: trending topics.
Trending topics (called ‘Trending’) will reflect interesting & relevant (their language) conversations on Facebook.
How does that compare to trending topics on Twitter ? A few points:
- They are not solely based on what is going in Facebook or particular geography (like Twitter does), but personalized based on your personal graph. The birthday of your aunt might show up there too.
- They don’t display hashtags…You could expect to see hashtags as a great way to join a global conversation, it’s only when you click that you’ll see a list of results including the original posts mentioned as trend, and additional public status updates based on hashtags (I assume) or keywords in general – in any case hashtags are not really prominent in there. A miss.
- They don’t necessarily invite for participation (do something like ‘Post a public status update on this topic’) but Twitter is not better at it…Except that the Twitter audience is much more used to hashtags – they really are in the DNA of so many Twitter users.
The traditional question is obviously – what does that mean for marketers ?
- Show up there if you can – if you can push up relevant content on a trending topic, you may appear in the overall results page for people that selected a trending topic, and get discovered by new, relevant, people. You can think about being a trending topic as a brand, but that will happen (1) by accident (2) you did something that went really viral, congrats but don’t plan for it (3) you paid for it. On this last option, the question is how long will it take for Facebook to implement that paying advertising feature. My guess is: not too long.
- Make sure your Twitter & Facebook strategies get closer. Twitter & Facebook were different animals. They still are, but this second set of features show that Facebook is REALLY serious about being part of the global, real time conversation. You should create bridge and make sure you implement elements of your Twitter marketing within Facebook (such as hashtags, participation into conversations, etc….)
- Watch this space and play ball. Facebook will continue to invest in this space, and you can expect new moves beyond features to ‘steal’ some space from Twitter, such as media deals, partnerships with top brands, you name it. It’s not only a feature game, it’s an ecosystem battle. You have now two competitors head to head, which is better than in e.g search where Google is still pretty much alone. Play the game.
It’s not the end of the story as you can see, but the beginning. The faster you can get ready for it, the better. Let me know in the comment any other implication you can think of.