Following an underwhelming start to the year, Facebook is rumoured to be testing the use of hashtags. Synonymous with micro-blogging site Twitter, hashtags have proven to be a fantastic social media marketing tool. Here, ClickThrough copywriter Jack Adams looks at how the implementation of hashtags could benefit Facebook marketers.

Although Facebook is by far and away the most dominant force within social media, some sections have begun to question whether the site is past its best.

Despite massive amounts of anticipation, its January announcement turned out to be somewhat underwhelming.

Although it got tongues wagging in the digital marketing blogosphere, on the whole Graph Search’s unveiling did little to excite many of the social networking site’s close-to-1-billion users.

However, Facebook may be looking to regenerate that spark.

In a move that’s likely to ruffle more than a few feathers at Twitter’s San Francisco HQ, it’s rumoured to be testing the use of hashtags on the site.

As well as giving Facebook users a new outlet for expression, the incorporation of hashtags is only likely to empower and benefit Internet marketing professionals.

Whilst currently just speculation – and it should be noted that Facebook has declined to comment – one would assume that any implementation of hashtags by the Mark Zuckerberg-founded social media site would work similarly to those on Twitter.

Hashtags on Twitter have provided advertisers with an invaluable form of promotion since Twitter users began incorporating them into posts more than five years ago.

They’re typically utilised by advertisers to highlight #services, #promotions and #products.

If the hashtag catches on amongst users, you have a successful social media marketing campaign on your hands – one that’s visible to the masses. As many Internet marketers know, though, there’s certainly an opportunity for things to go awry – as seen with many a hijacked Twitter marketing campaign.

Those that generate enough attention and activity – i.e. mentions, retweets etc. – get displayed to all Twitter users round the world as trending topics.

So, if Facebook were to adopt a similar type of system, it could provide advertisers with a fantastic opportunity to get into the newsfeeds of millions of people worldwide. In theory, all that’s needed is for one hashtag to go viral, and your brand could be in the newsfeeds of millions – and you didn’t even need to pay for a Facebook Ad.

Currently advertisers are limited when it comes to promoting themselves directly within newsfeeds.

Sponsored Stories only enable ads to feature in the newsfeeds of those who’ve either liked, or had friends that have liked, a businesses’ fan page, a related event or an app.

So people see the story, and if you’re lucky, they like it.

A hashtag-led campaign could bypass these restrictions by encouraging people to post their own contributions to an ongoing ‘conversation’, which happens to be linked to your brand.

In the other camp, Twitter’s Promoted Tweets product allows businesses to pay to get their Tweets in the timelines of those with an interest in their offerings. (This ‘interest’ is determined by who the user follows, what posts they retweet, and other factors.)

Better still, they only pay when users have engaged with their tweets – i.e. clicked, retweeted, favourited or replied – which is a considerable benefit.

Perhaps Facebook could adopt a similar approach to encourage the proliferation of hashtags.

In any case, it’s likely that hashtags will encourage the use of Sponsored Stories, as these will provide the would-be-trend with a wider initial audience – which is obviously a boon for Facebook.

If hashtags are implemented, and implemented successfully, they could encourage users to follow trending topics, and spend longer on Facebook. This means they’ll see more Facebook Ads and more Sponsored Stories. Score two for the social giant.

They could also potentially make the process of running campaigns concurrently, across the two platforms much easier.

Is it an original idea? #Certainlynot.

Is it a potentially exciting development for Internet marketers? #YouBet.

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About the author:

Jack Adams is a copywriter at ClickThrough Marketing, and is a qualified journalist. Jack also has a degree in Journalism, with a specialist focus on citizen journalism, which includes blogs, web content and social media.