What the #? Hashtags are Coming to Facebook

Facebook HashtagsIn every class and presentation I do, I always tell people to keep Twitter and Facebook separate.  They use two different languages.  Facebook is all about “natural language”.  We post the way we speak.  We use full sentences, and have posts that can go on for paragraphs.  Twitter is the complete opposite.  It’s all about brevity.  After all, you need to fit everything into 140 characters (and we recommend only using 120 to allow for retweets).  That includes any links, and hashtags that you may use.

What is a “Hashtag”?

In it’s basic form, a “hashtag” is an organizational tool.  It is a way to search for tweets that have a common topic or idea.  For example, if you search Twitter for #HungerGames or #Bacon, you will get every tweet that uses these hashtags, and would be able to follow conversations and find out who says what about a certain topic.  Anything can be a hashtag, and no-one owns them.  While teaching my class at Hofstra University on Digital and Social Media, I use the hashtag #HofstraDigital so that the students can communicate through Twitter, and with me, on any topic they wish.

In addition, if you use social dashboards like Hootsuite, you can set up columns for specific hashtags to follow, and you will see all tweets using that hashtag in an organized fashion.

Hashtags can also be found on other social networks, including Pinterest, GooglePlus, and Instagram, and I’ve even seen them on T.V. shows, so that people can follow the conversation about the show in real-time (#thefollowing, #BigBangTheory).

So, it would seem a natural progression that hashtags would move to Facebook, where over 1 billion users visit daily.

Should I Care?

In short, yes.  Hashtags are coming.  There is no way to stop this.  They are a great tool to organize conversations and topics.  But, I don’t think it will change the way people interact with Facebook, at least not in the short term.  People are used to longer posts, and that won’t change with the use of hashtags.  They would be embedded within the posts.  An example could read:

I can’t believe that #target is not going to match their on-line price with their in store price for me.  That is #badbusiness.

This would allow Facebook’s Graph Search tool to offer up conversations around hashtags, when searching for the store “Target” or the phrase “Bad Business”.

This will also allow businesses to search around terms that they feel would be relevant to their business.  Target, for instance, would find this post by searching #Target, as would anyone else, who could then join in the conversation.

It would become a great way to engage in a conversation around a specific topic, and allow you a broader reach than just your friends or fans.

Facebook could even go so far as to offer a dedicated page for hashtag searches, where people can save specific terms to be constantly updated (GooglePlus offers this).  It may allow deeper and more meaningful conversations among people, and create new relationships.

Facebook could even begin to roll out a new advertising platform that would appear only on these hashtag pages, where advertisers could directly target people searching specific words or phrases.  It would bring a more targeted audience to your brand.

In the end, there is no stopping the hashtag, whether you #love it or whether you #hate it, it will begin to show up in our news feeds.  Why not #embracethehorror?

What do you think?  Do you #like them or #hate them?  Sound off below.

 

Resources:

3 Changes to Facebook Pages: Replies, Cover Photos, Hashtags

Hashtags: from Twitter to Facebook

Facebook Plans to Introduce Hashtags, Reports Say

Facebook Working on Incorporating the Hashtag

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