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The Great #Hashtag Debate

As social media expands and new platforms are introduced into the realm, each channel has developed and evolved its own unique niche. However, as platforms seek to integrate content, many of those features are being shared across channels, infringing on what makes each platform exclusive.

A study of news consumption trends found that one-third of adults under the age of 30 get their news from social networks. Twitter’s simplistic news feed allows headlines to be scanned and further searched upon a user’s discretion using a variety of hashtags pertaining to a topic. Since its inception, Twitter has stood as the primary site for hashtags, aggregating information and providing updates in real-time; the limited space for crafting tweets forcing messages to be direct and to-the-point.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook will be introducing hashtags, challenging Twitter’s biggest marketing appeal, and heightening the competition for advertising dollars. While Facebook has denied the claim, feedback from the public hasn’t been very welcoming, leading to the great #hashtag debate. FoxNews stated that, “for years, Twitter and Facebook seemed to occupy different poles of the social-media spectrum. While Facebook was the home of close friends and family, Twitter was the real-time broadcasting device for the rest of the world.” For the many accounts that have been active since the early years of Facebook, timelines are saturated with content from friends and family who use the space for maintaining personal relationships – a stark difference to why users have flocked to Twitter and have made it a go-to resource for news.

When and if Facebook rolls out the hashtag feature, there may be no real pull for brands to hop on the bandwagon. Unlike Facebook status updates, tweets are public and viewable to all Twitter accounts. Essentially, your reach with Facebook won’t be as extensive because you’d be sharing articles, comments and opinions only with the people in your own personal network, thus decreasing visibility. In October 2012, Napkin Labs, a Facebook app developer that works with brands and agencies, released a study saying that, “on average, just 6% of fans engage with a brand’s Facebook Page via likes, comments, polls and other means.”

Implementing a hashtag is not going to suddenly drive more consumers to Facebook, or even encourage a drastic change in participation. Like any other new marketing tactic that generates buzz, brands must approach social media practices from a holistic perspective, one that identifies what will  resonate best with their audience in order to drive engagement.

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