Facebook Aims To Share The Hashtag With Twitter
March 15, 2013

Facebook Aims To Share The Hashtag With Twitter

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

These days, when you hear the word "hashtag," you instantly identify it as a part of Twitter. That user-created method of tagging tweets may now find its way to Facebook. Facebook is looking into how it can incorporate the hashtag on its social networking site, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sources told the Journal Facebook plans to use hashtags to group conversations and events trending on the site. This would emulate the tagging style used by Twitter that places the pound sign "#," or what's commonly called a hashtag, in front of a word or string of words to create a tag or conversation. In this way, users can search for hashtags to view a conversation. Twitter users have even used hashtags to create events, such as informational seminars where hashtags put a group conversation into one stream.

Facebook has remained closed to friend networks. So when one user posts, those updates and comments stay within friends, and sometimes friends of friends. Use of hashtags might open the conversation up to all of Facebook, so that users can view all comments with a hashtag on a certain topic, such as the Academy Awards, American Idol or the latest celebrity to take a misstep. It is not clear whether Facebook will open comments to hashtags up to a larger audience outside of a user's network, but there is that possibility.

If hashtags open conversation beyond a friend network, it will give marketers tools to view trends in Facebook. Marketers can see if their products, such as the newly announced Samsung Galaxy S IV, are causing any ripples.

This won't be the first appearance of the hashtag in user streams. Users who tie their Facebook and Twitter comments together, sending posts from one social network to the other, often have hashtags in their stream. This might be a way for Facebook to make use of those rogue hashtags.

If hashtags find their way into Facebook usage, it has the potential to cause a backlash. While hashtags are widely used in Twitter, the Huffington Post notes that hashtags are "Twitter's most annoying and corporate feature," in the title of its post. The article calls hashtags tiresome.

Hashtags are used by a few other social networks including Instagram and Google+.

While some may resist adoption of hashtags on Facebook, it is possible the character will be invisible in posts. Facebook adopted the "@" from twitter. Users can place the @ before a person's name, or a Facebook page, in order to easily link that name in a post. When the post appears, the @ is not visible, instead the name appears as a link. The hashtag could potentially behave the same way on Facebook, where a user can place a hashtag before a word or string of words to tag it, but the word or phrase itself may appear in the news stream as a link instead of having the interruptive hashtag in front.

Facebook is rolling out its social graph features. The hashtag will potentially be part of the social graph, but it does not appear to be one of the first features that will appear across Facebook. There is no word yet on when the hashtag will invade the social network.