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Graphtag: Why I Believe Facebook Is Implementing Hashtags

Author: Sean G. McCormick

When I saw the reports last week regarding Facebook’s future use of hashtags, my first notion was, why now? Maybe the use of hashtags was so great, that their hand was being forced? After some digging though, this doesn’t seem to be the case, but more importantly, it appears to be a directional move that foreshadows where Facebook is potentially heading. It’s no mystery, after Facebook’s IPO, that they are more than ever in the business of making money. And while Twitter originated the hashtag, I’m not sold that the use of hashtags is a hip-check at them.

In 2010, 11% of tweets used hashtags. This number did more than double by 2012, but it’s still estimated that only 24% of tweets contain hashtags. So, with Twitter generating an estimate of 500 million tweets a day, of that, 120 million daily tweets use hashtags. If we replicated this performance of hashtags over to Facebook, with 2.5 billion shares of content per day, we are looking at a projected rate of over 600 million uses of hashtags daily. While the sheer volume of hashtags that Facebook could potentially use would overshadow Twitter’s use, I do not believe Facebook’s decision to now make use of hashtags is strategic enough to implement the use of hashtags. I believe the bigger play is at Google—and I do not believe we have the full story.

“Graphtag”
My sneaking suspicion is Facebook’s intent to begin incorporating hashtags into status updates and content sharing will roll-up to the hashtag’s integration into Facebook’s Graph Search. The use of hashtags won’t be a focal point for Facebook, but simply a vehicle to deliver data. Facebook is leveraging this familiar user experience of hashtags, and I believe will spin it into the search agent, “Graphtag” (this is not the official name of Facebook’s graph tag, but a term I coined), to feed Graph Search. A graphtag will not be single-faceted either to just “group conversations,” but to source consumer data for Facebook.

The Foreshadow
The strategic incorporation of hashtags is not to just join the ranks of use, but to bring a greater value to advertisers. This will be a “trump card” to differentiate Facebook’s value from Google’s advertising and analytics offerings. I believe their goal is to evolve the current hashtag and bring us a Hashtag 2.0. Facebook’s advertising clients will have the ability to not only “group conversations” or to “trend,” but will have the business intelligence associated with a hashtag for research and targeting/retargeting. Don’t be surprised in the future when Facebook releases a type of consumer data service. I also believe Facebook will use hashtags to better localize/personalize advertising based on specific hashtag use from consumers.

The use of hashtags has not been Facebook’s concern up until now, for the simple fact that they have not had a meaningful business use of this experience. As marketers, adding hashtags is a step forward from an integrated media aspect—for use across social verticals with Twitter, Google and now soon with Facebook—but it may not it end there for Zuckerberg. If Facebook in fact integrates hashtags into its Graph Search, this toolset will provide more in-depth patient-based analytics, increase our ability to (geo/re)target more effectively, and ultimately engage across a patient’s Facebook network and through to their potential caregivers.

How will you use your healthcare hashtags more effectively?

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Sean McCormick

Sean McCormick

Sean McCormick

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