The social media giant Facebook has brought hashtags, a popular tool within Twitter and some other social media engines, to its shores. Hashtags are used to search for topics of a similar theme and can also increase the rate that your own message is found. A twitter update with “I like #red” will mean that any person searching for #red will find your post, as well as every other post including the term. This has proven to be an exceptionally popular option for users of Twitter, allowing conversations about news items, entertainment and current events between perfect strangers.
Though not entirely necessary (non hashtag items can trend and you can search without hashtags), it’s certainly true that this tool has become a huge part of the Twitter experience.
Twitter uses hashtags to talk about real time events but hashtags are also used in a range of other social media channels. The popular sharing site Tumblr allows users to assign hashtags to their posts so that they can be found easily. The same is true for the photography app Instagram. Google+ also has hashtag support so it seems that Facebook is pretty late to the party in this regard.
The Business Model
The reason why Facebook has introduced this new feature is most likely monetary. Hashtags are a great way to get strangers involved in the same conversation and forge new links through common ground. Twitter currently allows “sponsored hashtags”, where a company can pay to have a hashtag appear as trending, which encourages more conversation around the topic. Facebook is currently not allowing such sponsorship as they understandably want to see whether this new feature takes off. If hashtags become part of the user experience on Facebook as much as it already has done for Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Google+ then we’ll soon be seeing some monetised options.
Business Benefits on Social Media
Hashtags aren’t only helpful if you pay money to sponsor them and by bringing hashtags to Facebook, they’re moving towards a more business orientated model. As a business owner, you’ll be able to engage with your audience through additional channels rather than simply just messages and images. You’ll also be able to get wind of mentions that occur away from your official business page, giving you greater responses from your customers to changes and events. Only time can tell if hashtags prove to be a boon to Facebook or an awkward addition but it’s certainly another sign that the social network is now business orientated.