I’m an Android user, something that I actually think is decently well known among any of my SHIFT colleagues who watch my reaction when someone emails in search of an iPhone 5 charger. While there are many, many things about Android that we usually get first (*cough* copy-paste *cough*), sometimes we get left out in the cold when it comes to applications. I’ll admit defeat long enough to note that the Apple developer process is better suited to innovators and in encouraging some sleeker offerings, and it’s no surprise that apps like Instagram and Vine were iOS first-and-only for awhile.
I remember the day that Instagram finally showed up in the Google Play Store (Android Market) – it was April 2012, all of a week before Facebook bought the app and people behind it. Now, I had only had the app for a few days, but I still was completely amazed by an entire ecosystem of a social network that I didn’t know existed. Instagram wasn’t just an photo filter to post Toaster-fied images to Twitter and Facebook; it was a world of its own, one that I had no idea existed. It was one that was well connected, too, through Throwback Thursdays and GPOW, combining some of those anonymous interactions from Tumblr within its own network.
Facebook wasn’t buying photo filters for $1 billion back in 2012. It was after that social interaction around photos, which was not only connecting people with their friends but also people they didn’t know because of linked conversations. This was defense, because Facebook knows its marketing bread is buttered by user interaction with photos – that’s where engagement levels are the highest and that’s where an absurd amount of content is generated in its network – and if people were getting that photo fill elsewhere, a big market share could disappear.
That’s where we can finally find the business reason behind Facebook’s move to bring hashtags to its network. If content is being generated and connected, and that is driving this separate social network that Facebook bought for not-a-small-amount-of-money, it is in Facebook’s best interest to bring those highly engaged users into its news feed. The news feed is where Facebook users spend most of their time and in which marketers end up spending the most for those litany of sponsored post options. Combine it all together, and Facebook stands a chance to make the most of their investment in Instagram count.
If you want to get all Da Vinci Code on it, Facebook didn’t exactly hide the Instagram-influenced decision. Even in the language of its own release on the forthcoming hashtags, Facebook listed Instagram first – ahead of Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. I also think that NBA Finals example it used looks a little bit like it’s been run through a filter, but now I’m reading too far into it.
There are no indications that marketers will be getting access to run content at a cost against these new hashtags, but you don’t need marketers to sponsor hashtags. You just need to keep that News Feed engagement strong so that the Facebook user is more likely to be in front of the most lucrative ad space. That’s the bottom line on Facebook hashtags.
Senior Account Manager