Will Hashtags Come to Facebook?

facebook hashtagsOnce again the world’s largest social media network is in the headlines again. The last I wrote about Facebook concerned good news about its reach exceeding previous perceptions. Now it looks like Facebook is taking a page out of Twitter’s playbook to improve its search and indexing services as it continues to work towards releasing Graph search to everyone.

Yes, Hashtags on Facebook

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? That’s sort of the mentality that Facebook is using to approach the possible adoption of hashtags on its platform. As Alexei Oreskovic reports for Reuters, “Facebook is looking to improve its search and indexing capabilities” with the implementation of hashtags. That is, if the reports are true. The news stems from a Wall Street Journal article citing unnamed sources.

Hashtags on Twitter help people follow trending topics and even to create their own topics based on events or occurrences happening throughout the world. They are integral to the success of Twitter as well as integral to Twitter campaigns for businesses and agencies.

If Facebook can manage to implement a system like Twitter’s hashtags – even at a portion of their effectiveness – it could add a great deal more usefulness and accessibility to the service for users and businesses alike. Of course, hashtags would only be indexable if the posts were public and only searchable among public and friends posts. This keeps privacy intact and really wouldn’t hurt the user experience at all; I think it would make it much better for everyone on Facebook

What Would Facebook Gain?

Facebook could gain a great deal from implementing a hashtag system or hashtag-like system. Ryan Tate at Wired captures one of the important reasons why implementing hashtags would be great for Facebook. He writes that Facebook is very interested “in the additional vector they provide for advertisers.” Facebook could easily borrow the promoted trends idea that Twitter has made great use (and lots of money) off of.

Of course, this means that Facebook would become more attractive for businesses and agencies looking for better ways to promote themselves and their clients. Josh Constine writes on TechCrunch that “Hashtags would also allow brands and events to better coordinate buzz on Facebook.” It would just take a bit of adjustment to a slightly different system, but businesses and agencies could hop on board relatively quickly.

People already include the hashtags of brands and companies they like when tweeting about them or related information. There’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t do the same with a hashtag system on Facebook. Plus, Josh reminds us that Zuckerberg “confirmed that sponsored search results” for Graph Search “would be a natural way to monetize” the search engine.

A (Probable) Bonus for Twitter and all of Social Media

Some people may think that this move could threaten Twitter. Mike Isaac over at AllThingsD admits that Facebook’s adoption of hashtags could spell trouble for Twitter. Facebook would be able to offer the same power of advertising based on trending topics and hashtags related to their brand or product. That could hurt Twitter.

But, as Mike writes, “Facebook’s widespread adoption of this language could actually bring the lexicon to the masses.” This means that millions more will learn about and understand the use of hashtags, which would likely lead them to Twitter, or at least a better understanding of the service. Ultimately, it seems to me and many others that hashtags on Facebook would be great. Let’s hope we see this soon.

What do you think about Facebook adopting hashtags? Is this a threat to Twitter? Would it be good for your business or your agency?

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Patrick currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is studying for a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations. Upon graduation from Penn State in 2008, he spent two years overseas in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. Peace Corps. While writing is currently his chosen way to put food on the table, he loves fitness and exercise, which he believes makes up for his avid computer gaming habit.

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