Rumor has it that Facebook is tinkering with hashtags. And it really is just a rumor at this point. Facebook reps have refused to confirm the news, let alone set a projected date of introducing the feature.
The move sounds like a sensible idea: articles at Slate and Wired reiterate the dollar sense behind implementing this social media tool. On Twitter, users can click the hashtag link and pull up a collection of posts with the same hashtag. Obviously, advertisers want in on what’s gaining traction and then use that data in their campaigns.
In February, before news broke about Facebook, Russell Brandom at The Verge pointed out that Twitter didn’t invent the hashtag nor is it owned by the company. Of course, the pound sign is all over social media: Instagram, Tumblr YouTube and Google+. But a new, built-in functionality on Facebook might make Twitter nervous—hashtags have been a differentiator for the 140-character-a-tweet, micro-blogging site, and they’re looking out for their corner.
All Things D’s Mike Isaac offered an assessment that I’ll be watching to see if it pans out. With Facebook’s implementing the hashtag, Twitter runs the risk of losing advertising dollars. However, the use of the hashtag is sometimes misunderstood and overused. As Sam Biddle over at Gizmodo says: people “spray [hashtags] across sentences like a bottle of Cheez Whiz.” But Facebook’s implementation of hashtags might educate a larger number of people in their proper use, which in turn might help Twitter gain more knowledgeable users.
The Cheez Whiz metaphor is fitting (and funny), and I’ll admit I’ve used more than my fair share of pointless hashtags. But as a whole, hashtags provide interesting insight into who’s talking about what, whether or not you’re paying for promotion or results. Tune into Twitter during a show finale, and millions of people are in your living room discussing outfits or plot points or whether he was an idiot for not picking the other girl (I didn’t watch The Bachelor this season, so this is purposefully unspecific.) Or how about my favorite example, Jimmy Fallon, who reaches out to his 8.1 million followers and asks them for a humorous anecdote and to include a specific tag. And now magazines and newspapers turn to Twitter and use hashtags as a means of obtaining feedback and using responses in articles. Talk about tapping into your resources. Conference hashtags offer instant feedback to other attendees or helps keep those who couldn’t make it in the loop (like #SXSW or #brooklynbeta). And of course, hashtags have changed the way the world hears about and connects over major events and breaking news—#prayforJapan, #Egypt, #SuperBowl, #Election2012, etc.
All that to say, I don’t blame Facebook for giving hashtags a go. Although I do hope it’s not as dire for Twitter as some might suggest, because boy, #I #love #the #challenge #of #140 #characters.
Aside: What if hashtags existed…
The night The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show
At Jabba the Hutt’s palace
During the French Revolution
In the mission control center during the Apollo 13 mission
During the Civil Rights Movement
When Harry beat Voldemort
When General Cornwallis sent someone else to surrender to General Washington at Yorktown
During the Crusades
At the completion of the Panama Canal
Submit your hashtag ideas in the comments! Or you can submit another event (since the possibilities are endless) and include what you think the hashtag might have been.
Jeanne Petrizzo – Writer/Editor