Friday, February 8, 2013

hashtags in the stream

Something like 75% of super bowl ads this year had online calls to action. What that means is that they invited viewers to go online and do something like try out a web site or talk about the brand in a social network like twitter, google+, or facebook.

It took a couple of days for people to catch on that there was a subtlety in these calls to action. The specific social space was very infrequently mentioned. Instead, viewers were given a hashtag, that's a # sign followed by a word or group of words without any spaces between. Most social networks provide a search functionality so that when you click on a hashtag, you get all the posts to which people have applied the tag. Often, these searches work in real time.

A few thoughts on the hashtag strategy:

  • It's network agnostic. Google+, twitter, instagram, and others support it. That way, you're not dictating to your fans where to go. They can go where they normally go.
  • It's potentially very prone to spam. To be part of the stream, all you have to do is write the hashtag in your post. As a result:
    • I'd expect social networks to start providing authority filters based on the poster's overall reputation.
    • I'd expect marketers to start differentiating between social networks based on the quality of their signals.
  • There's real opportunity here for aggregators. Many of those currently already exist with high monthly subscription prices.
  • Aggregators and proprietors of social networks have fundamentally different sets of interests. Strangely, users' interests may be more aligned with those of aggregators since, in many cases, users contribute to social networks in order to be heard. This goes against what you might hear from privacy advocates.