If there’s one group of Facebook users that’s genuinely excited about the introduction of Facebook hashtags, it’s probably brands. Hashtags will make it easier for customers and fans to talk about and interact with their favorite companies, and they’ll streamline discovery for the companies and products they love – now if they want to see who else is talking about Doritos, typing #Doritos will reveal a bunch of Facebook conversations, while typing it into the original search bar on Facebook wouldn’t yield nearly as thorough results.
Hashtags are a discovery tool, and if there’s one thing businesses want, it’s to be discovered by more potential clients. That’s why appearing in searches is so vital for companies, and why search engine optimization, or SEO, is such a booming business.
Eric Covino, an SEO expert and founder of SEO optimization company Creative Signals, thinks Facebook hashtags have the ability to play a big role in business marketing. “When we think of ‘SEO’ we start with user experience and relevancy. So what these Facebook hashtags will do for businesses is allow them to engage customers and potential customers with relevant conversation as opposed to just throwing Facebook ads at them,” he explains. If Covino’s thinking is correct, it might explain why Facebook just cut some of its ad programs, including Sponsored Stories, which used to be one of the company’s selling points when it explained how it worked promotional materials into the interface. Hashtags will provide another opportunity for brands to insert themselves more seamlessly into the Facebook experience, but if they’re done right, they won’t annoy the bejeezus out of Facebook users like Sponsored Stories did. The only question about that: will Facebook try to monetize hashtags, like Twitter is doing with things like partnerships with American Express? The answer is yes, absolutely – but when and how remains to be seen. But you can count on sponsored hashtags making their way to your Facebook feed.
Either way, though, as far as Google SEO is concerned, hashtags on Facebook will operate differently than hashtags on Twitter and Google+. “Google doesn’t have the ability to get the same level of information from Facebook (inside of Facebook) as it does from Twitter or Google+. So this isn’t a direct tie-in to SEO and that’s perfectly ok,” Covino says. “There are a lot of indirect ways to help your SEO and getting involved in conversations with potential customers, in an engaging way, is the first step in giving them a great user experience.”
Right now, the Facebook hashtags are pretty bare-bones, and not every account can use them yet. But Facebook plans to roll out more advanced features in coming weeks, including trending hashtags and insights, which will make it even easier for brands to figure out how to utilize the new feature for SEO purposes.
One interesting way hashtags are optimized for Facebook: if you cross-post from Instagram, the hashtags you use on Instagram will appear on Facebook. But if you click on them, instead of getting sent back to Instagram, you’ll just see related hashtags on Facebook. This means that whatever is being cross-posted could change conversationally – a hashtag might mean one thing on Twitter or Instagram, and something else on Facebook; regardless, it will feed the Facebook conversation only. Yet another factor that brands will have to consider in their hashtagging campaigns.