There are obvious implications for ad targeting, since Facebook
will theoretically now have a much better signal to identify highly
engaged TV viewers watching a real-time event like the Oscars or
the NBA Finals if hashtags are widely adopted.
However, it's also possible that Facebook's foray into hashtags
has much more to do with data and building out its graph search
product than with ads (for now). Graph search is reliant on the
"like" as an expression of interest, but likes are flawed signals,
since users sometimes click on them arbitrarily or to satisfy a
social obligation. But posting with a hashtag could be seen as a
more tangible expression of affinity and could thus help to make
graph search into a useful product.
For example, if you wanted to search for "shows that my friends
like," graph search in its current incarnation would pull up
specific programs your Facebook friends have "liked." But these
likes may not reflect particular enthusiasm, since someone could
have "liked" the show, stopped engaging with its content, and then
mostly stopped seeing anything about it in their news feed
altogether. But a person who posts with the hashtag #revenge or
#downtonabbey is likely to be fan of the show -- or at least
someone who's paying attention to it. Which means hashtags -- if
adopted by users -- could make graph search much more
While not specifically mentioning graph search, Facebook's head
of media partnerships, Dan Rose, recently said that Facebook could
fill a void in the TV ecosystem around discovery.
"The reality is most of us choose to watch [TV] based on shows
friends told us about," he said at the All Things D media conference.
Hashtags also seem like a fit with CEO Mark Zuckerberg's vision
of Facebook as a "personalized newspaper," as he
referred to it last week when rolling out a new version of news
feed where users can see streams comprised solely of photos, events
or music-related content.
However, Facebook has a much steeper privacy bar to clear than
Twitter does in terms of publishing user content. The vast majority
of Facebook posts are private, meaning that the public ones
eligible to be shown on hypothetical hashtag pages would be the tip
of the iceberg of conversation happening on the platform.