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Will Facebook Inc's Copycatting of Twitter's Hashtags Garner Profits or Protest?

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The social media giant is clearly keeping an eye on what's trending with its primary competitor, but will users be on board?

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Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to Facebook, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:FB) strategy of late, it could very well be the key to raking in additional profits.

The hashtag, a largely Twitter-associated device, consists of a word or phrase prefaced by the '#' symbol. As of June 12, the ability to hashtag has been enabled for a portion of Facebook users. While ostensibly this looks like a simple admission by Facebook that Twitter is one step ahead of it, the advertising value of the hashtag begs for it to be integrated.

By tacking one of these tags onto a tweet, users effectively make their comment part of a larger overall discussion, not restricted by online "friendships" or connections, whether it be about a celebrity, television show, sporting event, or just about anything else.

This is great for the average social media user because it enables him or her to see and discuss other people's takes on current happenings. A recent Nielsen survey states that 46% of smartphone owners use their smartphones daily as a second screen while watching television. For companies, this makes advertising a cinch.

During the big game, for example, Domino's Pizza, Inc. (NYSE:DPZ) or a Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE:YUM) eatery can send out a promoted message with a relevant hashtag and provide a subtle reminder to all those sports fans taking part in the discussion online that they offer a delicious and quick half-time snack.

Google+ (NASDAQ:GOOG) already supports hashtags as does Facebook's Instagram. While the hashtag feature that's being rolled out to Facebook users isn't currently available on mobile, it seems the social media giant is well on its way to furthering its presence in the real-time advertising realm.

While hashtags have long been a staple of Twitter, Vine is a more recent buzz-creating acquisition. A video-sharing app, Vine allows users to record clips up to six seconds long and upload them for all to see. With over 13 million iOS (NASDAQ:AAPL) users as of June 3, an Android-friendly version released on that same date only serves to help Vine remain atop free app sales charts.

With Facebook set to announce a new product June 20, most sources are speculating that a video adaptation for Instagram will be unveiled.

The app currently enables users to edit and overlay filters in order to give their photos a more artistic and professional look, and the transition to video is a sensible one.

With Topsy Analytics revealing that more Vines were shared on Twitter than Instagrams on June 7, videos could very well be the thing that Facebook needs to get Instagram's over 100 million users back on top of the social activity charts.

Facebook seems to be taking logical steps by providing its own twist on current Twitter staples. With all borrowed ideas, however, there is the risk of users retaliating against the 'stolen' idea or holding off on using these new innovations. As both hashtags and videos are largely dependent upon voluntary user participation, this resistance could dull the impact of Facebook's 'new' features.
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