#New on #Facebook
Facebook made good on a feature that it has been testing behind the scenes: the hashtag.
The move is aimed at giving the social network a greater voice in real-time public conversations dominated by rival Twitter, Evelyn Rusli writes.
The company said that words in posts that are marked by “#” will be grouped together. Users can track conversations by searching for these hashtags, or clicking on a hashtag in a post. That action will pull up a list of posts the include the hashtag, with most relevant posts first, such as those by your friends, followed by most recent, publicly available posts.
Back in March when Rusli and Shria Ovide first reported that Facebook exploring the use of hashtags, they pointed out the social networks’ growing competition with each other for mobile users and advertising dollars.
For years, Twitter and Facebook seemed to occupy different poles of the social-media spectrum. While Facebook was the home of close friends and family, Twitter was the real-time broadcasting device for the rest of the world.
Facebook has now increasingly moved onto Twitter’s turf. The Menlo Park, Calif., social network is prodding users to share more content with the public. In recent years it has mirrored some of Twitter’s features by creating “subscriber” lists for users, and allowing people to tag celebrities and brands with the “@” sign.
Hashtags are closely associated with Twitter, though their usefulness has somewhat ebbed in recent years. Clicking a hashtag tracking a big public event in real time can return a seemingly endless stream that moves too fast to follow. (Looking at you, #WWDC.) And Twitter freshmen shouldn’t go too long before tiring of ironic and pithy jokes (#NiceDayForARedWedding). That said, hashtags are still useful when used in smaller environments like conference or public speaking event. (The Journal uses one for its DJ at DJ program.)
Whether hashtags catch on with Facebook users is an open question, though adoption is likely. Features such as trending topics are planned for the months ahead, Facebook said. Among a group of friends on Facebook, a hashtag could easily allow a close-knit conversation about last night’s episode of “Falling Skies,” for example. And, of course, Facebook has the option to sell ads against trending topics.