Facebook Attempts to Gain Cool Points With Roll-out of #Hashtags

Proving once again the awesomeness of Twitter, Facebook bit the bullet on hashtags and rolled them out to some users this week. Rumors of Facebook hashtags began to circulate in March, but now that they’re finally here we will begin to see whether they enhance user experience and functionality on Facebook, or indicate that Facebook developers are losing their creative edge and should quit copying other platforms and get back to leading social networking innovation.

Here’s what Facebook hashtags could do.

String conversations. Just as hashtags help to organize conversations on Twitter, Facebook users could implement the tool to connect and communicate on a topic rather than simply between friends centered on a post. Non-profit communications managers should really have their gears moving in preparation for this – what a potentially great way to extend Facebook post engagement!

Organize Instagram’d events. Instagram already utilizes hashtags to collect images into makeshift albums, which can then be viewed on third party tools on desktops as well as in Instagram apps. But with the addition of hashtags to Facebook, now people can take photos at a fundraiser (for example), hashtag them (perhaps using the same hashtag for Twitter), and post those images to Facebook where they can be streamed together.

Measure Trends. Once users adopt hashtag use on Facebook, streamed conversations could potentially be measured and tracked for trending topics or further sentiment analysis. There will probably be a number of intrepid app designers looking to roll out Facebook Apps that aggregate hashtag data for pages.

Here’s what Facebook hashtags probably would not do.

Connect entire conversations. Even though Facebook seems to be constantly trying to adjust privacy settings to make the platform as open as Twitter, there’s always a user backlash, and with hashtags we’ll probably encounter the same response. What this means is that hashtag followers won’t be able to pick up every tagged post from every user because a user’s privacy settings will get in the way.

Discourage users from syncing Twitter and Facebook. We’ve known for a while now that it’s a bad practice to auto-publish tweets to Facebook, even though it’s incredibly easy to do so. Now that hashtags have a purpose on Facebook, it will be harder to convince users to disconnect their platforms. Even with Facebook’s attempt at coolness, content types and strategy are still different and the two should be kept separate.

Make it cool to use hashtags ironically. There are a few of us out there who think it’s funny and/or clever to use hashtags ironically on Facebook as homage to Twitter. OK maybe that’s just me. Anyway, I think it’s fun in part because Facebook has a larger character limit so the hashtags in posts can be quite long. Now ironic hashtags will no longer be funny. And that’s just unfortunate.

What do you think hashtags will add to or take away from Facebook?

(This blog was originally posted here)

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