While hashtags weren’t really invented by Twitter, they’re usually described as a Twitter-originating way of piecing together information. But the hash-based feature is not Twitter-exclusive, given the likes of Tumblr and Google Plus which have also adopted it to some degree. Facebook has surprised its users and marketers by recently announcing that it too supports hashtags.
Hailed as the word of the year in 2012 by the American Dialect Society, the hashtag is basically a combination of any word preceded by a hash symbol which serves as an active link within a certain website. By clicking it, a user triggers a separate page containing a thread of posts with that hashtag in a chronological order. Hashtags provide users with a simple way to make their posts viewable to people beyond the circle of their friends, or followers. Also, the feature facilitates searching for information. For example, if you want to find out quickly what’s going on in Turkey, you simply click a link #turkey.
The hashtag feature is now officially supported by Facebook. When you click a hashtag wherever on Facebook, a lightbox window appears with a thread of posts that contain the hashtag. You may also initiate this function by simply typing a keyword in the search box. On Facebook, the feature is a bit unique, though, because unlike Twitter, Facebook allows its users to block public visibility of their activities. Hence, you can only browse posts from your friends or strangers who allow it.
The introduction of hashtags on Facebook is a bit of a risky move, because Facebook’s user base is much larger and more diverse than that of Twitter. While heavy users are pretty familiar with the technology-associated hash symbol, it may seem a bit awkward to millions of less tech-savvy people. In other words, I can easily imagine my 50-something aunt, a yet staunch Facebook enthusiast being rather intimidated by the abrupt arrival of hashtags. But Facebook probably has a well thought-out strategy for this feature. Only time will tell how all of this plays out.
Twitter’s hashtags have become a powerful marketing tool. They’re being displayed as part of TV commercials, as well as outdoor advertisements due to the fact they’re easy to remember and quick to type. Smartphone users often type hashtags which they notice on TV, or on the go. Also, whenever anything important happens in the world, hashtags support Twitter’s role as a vital news source. Following threads related to certain keywords, people find out the latest news quicker than anywhere else. Perhaps for this reasons Facebook would like to be a part of the hashtag hype. It’s not obvious, though, whether Facebook users will be prone to adopt a feature actually borrowed from a competitive website.
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