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Facebook Hashtags: Obstacles for Users and Brands

Last week Facebook debuted its anticipated hashtag feature allowing both users and brand pages to leverage hashtags in post updates.
Similar to Twitter’s hashtag functionality, hashtagging a word within the Facebook platform allows that word to be clickable in News Feeds. When clicked, Facebook reveals a stream of updates with that #word. Alternatively, users can search for hashtags using the # symbol in the search box.

facebook hashtag

For publishers, Facebook Hashtags will allow for additional segmentation of content as well as a means by which to reach more interested audiences. For users, it will offer the opportunity to discover and consume new relevant content.
How will Users and Brands use this new feature? 
The first major brand we spotted taking advantage of this new feature in a big way was Taco Bell. The post which was pushed out by the brand last Wednesday appeared in many News Feeds on Friday, June 14th as a promoted post.


Although timely, this post illustrated some of the obstacles both brands and Facebook itself will have to overcome to make hashtags truly valuable to users and publishers alike. Let’s dive into some of my initial learnings.
1. Spam, spam…and more spam
When I clicked on the hashtag in the Taco Bell post, a slew of spam popped up. The posts that weren’t spam were in different languages. As a user, I was underwhelmed. As a social marketing professional, I was disappointed. I looked around to see if there was some way I could further filter this stream—a sort by location or language feature? Nope. Some of the posts included a translation feature powered by Bing, but it wasn’t present on all of them.
Since #like isn’t exactly related to any specific type of content, I did a few searches for topics that I’m interested in (#socialmedia, #digitalmarketing, #marketing) to see if this was a problem across the board. Although some of posts were relevant, I found most of the content to be low quality, spam, or in another language.
I, did, however find local hashtags (#michigan, #annarbor) to have higher quality content and minimal spam.
2. I cannot see anything…and what I can see, I don’t like. 
Because Facebook posts aren’t limited to 140 characters like their concise counterparts, users have minimal post visibility in the hashtag stream. For the searches I did, I could only see about 2-3 posts at a time which made it more frustrating when those three posts weren’t relevant to the topic I searched.
3. Relevance is key. 
For publishers and brands, using relevant hashtags will be of the utmost importance to avoid the bizarre user experience I had with the aforementioned Taco Bell post.
Although Twitter has long suffered from spam on trending topics and popular hashtags, Facebook’s hashtag issues are more glaring. A few questions to ponder: Will the spam issue resolve itself after the initial hype has faded? Will it take a greater number of public pages creating a larger pool of hashtag content to help eliminate this problem? Or will Facebook have to take steps to combat spam while refining the overall user experience? Time will tell. In the meantime, how you be leveraging hashtags for your clients, brand, or business? Share below.

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