Social media giant Facebook is reportedly planning to co-opt the use of hashtags, a search trademark of their rival Twitter. The move has the potential to put the two social networks in direct competition for advertising dollars from social media marketing services.
Facebook is now testing a new feature that would allow users to click on hashtags in posts, which would send them to a page where content and discussion utilizing the hashtag would be grouped. This is similar to how Twitter currently integrates hashtags into their search functions.
The new Facebook feature is notable for its integration into the Graph search function, which allows users to search their social networks in very specific terms. The Graph search currently uses Facebook likes to catalog and deliver results, but this is flawed because users like posts and content on an impulse or whim, or out of social obligation. Hashtag use, and therefore search, signals a more deliberate use of the term, and is more valuable to digital marketing companies seeking high ROI.
Facebook is making a play for the audience’s eyeballs during live or ongoing events, like The Superbowl, NBA Finals, or the Grammys. However, the major hurdle Facebook would have to clear is its own privacy settings. Unlike Twitter, many users keep their posts private or contained to their personal networks of friends, and therefore wouldn’t show up in a hashtag search. It means that the public posts that would show up would only be a very small portion of the conversation actually happening on the platform.
Photo by Mike Cogh