Hashtags Come to Facebook
Facebook yesterday introduced the searchable hashtag, a feature that has long been a staple of other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. By clicking on a hashtag, Facebook users will be able to see what other people are saying about the hashtagged event or topic.
In a Newsroom post explaining the introduction of hashtags, Facebook cited the likes, comments and posts that regularly accompany major TV events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl, and how there was a need to organize all that social media chatter in one place. What Facebook didn’t mention is that a large percentage of that chatter now takes place on Twitter precisely because the Twitter hashtag allows users to track a chosen topic more efficiently.
Hashtags are added to Facebook posts in exactly the same way they are added to tweets on Twitter. If you want to share your weekend plans with your Facebook friends, you might post Looking forward to firing up the grill on Sunday #FathersDay. By clicking on #FathersDay, you and your friends can now see other posts that also included the FathersDay hashtag, effectively presenting you with a FathersDay feed.
The inclusion of a hashtag in a post doesn’t override the privacy settings for that post, meaning that the hashtagged post will only be available to those people specified by the originator (Public, Friends, Custom, etc.). On the other hand, if you share a public post, anyone who clicks on the relevant hashtag can see that post in their hashtag feed.
Facebook users can also search for a specific hashtag from the search bar at the top of their page. Users can also click on hashtags that originate on other services, such as Instagram, and compose posts directly from the hashtag feed or search results. Again, each Facebook user controls the audience for his or her individual posts.
While hashtags will certainly add to the conversational experience on Facebook, they will be just one more tool that Facebook can use to build a more complete profile of each user, with the potential to serve more targeted ads. For example, anyone using the Oscars hashtag in late February might be a perfect candidate for a discount deal from their local multiplex!
According to Facebook, hashtags are just the first step in making it easier for users to discover what other are saying about specific topics. Other ‘discovery’ features will be introduced in the coming months, including trending hashtags.