Big announcement in the social media community yesterday. Big. According to the Wall Street Journal headline (and story link) above, Facebook is exploring the idea of hashtags.
Hashtags are Twitter territory. A simple click on a hashtag displays any and every tweet using it. It’s a nice curation tool, unless the topic is extremely hot in which case the tweets fly by non-stop if you’re using a third-party app like TweetDeck. If on the web, it’s a game of constant page refresh. But, when the topic isn’t so “hot”, finding what people are saying about a topic or, as in the case of sports, a live event, it’s quick, easy and invaluable.
Which makes this announcement interesting. Interesting as in, I’m not sure how Facebook can make a dent in the Twitter domination of the 2nd-screen market.
[Full disclosure: Count me as someone who resists using Facebook on a personal basis. I use it for business purposes. When Facebook starting making their mass changes several years ago, it soured me on its appeal. Well, that, and reading certain individuals’ mundane updates about their game-playing scores, political rants or their unsolicited “pokings”.]
Covering sports/social media as in-depth as I do, I am able to see first hand not only what people are saying but which moments make an impact on the viewer. I am able to see the build-up of a moment become a trending topic. The power of the retweet (RT) enables word to spread quickly about something memorable that happened in sports.
While many think it’s the RT with the power, I would argue that in live event moments, it’s the 140-character Twitter limit that allows for success as a 2nd-screen resource. And that’s the advantage that Twitter will have over Facebook, especially in sports.
Sports, unless we’re talking golf or baseball, is fast action. Quick hits. Split-second moments that prompt immediate responses in us. Our immediate reactions range from “WOW!” to “DID YOU SEE THAT?” to “BOOM! #WINNING!!!!”.
No muss. No fuss. No need for long drawn out monologues of analysis. Just pure, simple emotion.
Twitter fits that bill nicely. 140 characters is the limit. People have adapted and are making it work.
But what of Facebook? Will their new hashtag incorporation also include a character limit like this?
Probably not. And that’s where I think it “may” fail. Realize that this is pure conjecture on my part but I speak as both a fan and a media member. When you’re in the middle of a game, who wants to read a long-drawn out analysis by someone using the hashtag #Lakers on Facebook. By the time you finish reading it, you may have missed 3 or 4 great plays. And if you choose to watch instead of read the boring analysis, will you remember to go back and read it? By then, what’s the point?
I can see this being beneficial to companies that use hashtags in their ad campaign. But if people find that it’s cumbersome to use, then why use it?
Am I wrong? Maybe.
However, if I wanted to read paragraphs upon paragraphs when University of South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney’s hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith while the game is going on, I’ll go to a message board.
(Lord, help me if I do that)
UPDATE: While doing research after this post, I came across this article on Facebook’s commercialization. In essence, the focus to increase ad revenue is driving “users” away. Whether that is accurate or not, I don’t know. But it does provide food for thought in the context of hashtagging on Facebook during “live” sporting events. May not be as beneficial to businesses as they may hope for sports advertising.