Report: Facebook to Introduce Hashtags

The move would bring Facebook into more direct competition with Twitter.

Unnamed sources say that Facebook is working to integrate hashtags into its service. Twitter users have long used hashtags, keywords preceded by the # sign, as a way to organize content.

The Wall Street Journal's Evelyn M. Rusli and Shira Ovide reported, "Facebook is working on incorporating the hashtag, one of Twitter's most iconic markers, into its service by using the symbol as a way to group conversations, said people familiar with the matter. It is unclear how far along Facebook's work on the hashtag is and the feature isn't likely to be introduced imminently, these people said.... Facebook is testing whether to follow Twitter's lead and allow users to click on a hashtag to pull up all posts about similar topics or events so it can quickly index conversations around trending topics and build those conversations up, giving users more reason to stay logged in and see more ads. Instagram, which Facebook acquired last year, already uses hashtags, allowing users to sort photos by the symbol."

Jessica Guynn with the Los Angeles Times noted, "Facebook already lets users tag people, pages and location. Letting users tag their posts with hashtags would make it easier for that content to be indexed by Facebook’s new search product, Graph Search."

All Things D's Mike Isaac observed, "But drilling down on the hashtag specifically is a direct affront to Twitter, potentially dipping into Twitter’s valuable ad dollar territory. Look at it this way: Imagine the power, Twitter would say, of an advertiser sticking an ad in a user’s face at the exact time they want to see it. If a user follows a hashtag about, say, #desserts, a company like Hostess could sell ads against anyone who searches that hashtag, sticking a promoted tweet for their delightful pink Sno-Balls in front of everyone following the hashtag. It’s a practice that’s slowly catching on for the advertisers who can understand it (but not every brand is totally up to speed on how to best advertise on Twitter)."

Slate's Will Oremus opined, "From the user’s perspective, Facebook hashtags are potentially useful, but far from optimal. At present, the site offers no way to sort posts by topic, which seems like a problem if it’s aiming to be 'the best personalized newspaper.' The mystery is why Facebook would do it by ripping off what's quite possibly the most annoying feature of its fast-growing rival, Twitter. Hashtags were once essential to the microblogging service, but I use Twitter for hours each day and I can hardly remember the last time I clicked on a hashtag. These days, the unironic use of hashtags on Twitter usually marks you as either a rookie, a 'social media guru,' or a writer for a crappy TV show."

Tags: Facebook, Twitter, social media, hashtags

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