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Facebook has formally introduced hashtags as a feature on its interface in order to make it easier for users and advertisers to zoom in on ‘hot spots’ of user activity around certain events or topics of discussion.
The hashtag appears as the # symbol and it was first made popular by Twitter. By including a phrase or a word after the # symbol, users can follow specific streams of conversation through myriad other conversations and topics by clicking on the word or phrase.
Similarly, Facebook users will now have the ability to categorise comments and conversations by typing the hashtag symbol alongside a keyword at the end of a post.
This system is very useful in social networking, particularly with following comments and conversations about real-time events, like sports, political debates, TV shows and so on. It’s particularly useful for advertisers to reach their desired audience.
Now, Facebook hashtag users will be able to see the ‘bigger view’ of what people are talking about, although at this stage it is unclear if its scope will be as large as Twitter’s: Tweets are public, whereas a person’s Facebook posts can only be seen by their own circle of connected friends unless posts are public.
So far, the ability to include hashtags has been rolled out to around 20 per cent of Facebook’s users. It will be fully launched over the next few weeks.
Some have been critical about this new feature, saying that it is inappropriate for Facebook to include it as it may adversely impact user privacy. Currently, people use Facebook to keep in touch with their private circles of friends, but it’s apparent that the site wants its users to have more public conversations.