Why the Hashtag is a Good Thing for Facebook

by Nick Cicero on Mar 19, 2013
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facebook hashtag

For years hashtags on Facebook have simply been a nuisance, an unfortunate byproduct of multi-site social sharing apps and even Facebook and Twitter’s own mutual sharing features. These misfit hashtags look out of place, aren’t clickable and have caused polarizing debates online, but a new report in Wall St. Journal last week states that hashtags could be on their way to Facebook, citing a source close to the company.

I believe that Facebook would be a lot better off if they adopted the hashtag to make sorting content more convenient for users, while creating new features for discussion on the network, for the following reasons:

1. Facebook is for yesterday. Twitter is for today.

Put simply, how often do you “Live Facebook” an event? You certainly Live Tweet, you might even Live Blog, but you won’t Live Facebook anything. The reason for this is that a large portion of users see Facebook as a place for memories, a place where you go to reflect on things that were. Incorporating the hashtag could activate more real-time sharing of moments between people.

2. Everyone’s doing it.

Bet you never thought that would be an acceptable statement huh? Well everyone’s jumping off the bridge of hashtags and Facebook would be better served to adopt it for the sake of uniformity. Creating conversations on multiple platforms has never been easier when the hashtag organizes a set of data by keywords like a user expects it to.

As the fragmentation of the web increases, it’s clear that niche communities are spinning up, and people are using wider reaching networks (right now mainly Twitter, but Google+ has a robust hashtag presence as well) to broadcast or distribute their experiences on these niche sites to open up small slices of their personality to their larger network.

Let the Hashtag be the entry point for new conversation. Oh and there’s also an issue with that little site called Instagram…that must be awkward.

3. The News Feed is Broken

It’s no secret that there has been a significant increase in sponsored products in the News Feed, along with a few questionable algorithm changes along the way. Facebook just isn’t the place to see trends anymore. Even the new News Feed attempts to provide top entertainment stories but from a user’s perspective, things like Smart Lists, Groups, and the notification settings that come with those are more effective at obtaining information.

Hashtags on Facebook could help to build a menu of trends that people could use to filter content in the News Feed and Graph Search, something that Twitter is still evolving daily.

In the end the user experience is important, but it has to come down to dollars. Hashtags have given Twitter an explosive revenue model because people have closely integrated it into their other branding channels. Hashtags are now on TV commercials, in TV shows, in print ads and billboards, TV reporters and sports broadcasters have their handles prominently displayed next to their name on-air, with Facebook being relegated to the token web URL at the end. Even Twitter said last month said half of the 52 national TV commercials that aired during the Super Bowl included a hashtag in the ad, and with eMarketer reporting that Twitter is expected to make $249 million this year, versus Facebook’s $851 million in mobile revenue, that gap is closing.

Here’s the question…Do you think Facebook can ever top Twitter’s real-time nature? What do you think about hashtags on Facebook? Let us know below.

Post Author

Nick Cicero is the Editor at Social Fresh and a Digital Marketing Consultant. Formerly of Expion and Livefyre, Nick has experience building social campaigns for Sony PlayStation, Winn-Dixie, Eminem, Teen Vogue and more. He’s a fan of playing...

  • Great post. In addition to the real-time sharing of moments, it would give people a way to easily go back and see their memories. Example: You went at Lollapalooza and want to relive the memory the next day, week, or year. You search #Lollapalooza2013 and see all the posts and pictures from you, your friends and others who were at the event all in one place.

  • Hey Nick,

    Good read. I honestly don’t think Facebook will outdo Twitter in the “real time marketing” arena. Now, that being said, that doesn’t mean they can’t be on the same level and doing it in a different way. This hashtag injection is creating a very new voice for Facebook so it will take users and brands time to adapt and strategize accordingly. It is obvious though that this was seen as a “must happen move” since over 50% of Facebook’s traffic is now via mobile. This will be something interesting to track from beginning to full integration.


  • I think hashtags within Facebook groups would be awesome. There are a couple hugely helpful groups I am in that I would love to be able to bookmark certain topics in.

  • I don’t think it is about the real time marketing either. Especially since most Facebook content is gated/private on some level.

    It would be cool to see which of my friends are all chatting about the UNC/Duke game or the Oscars, etc.

    Curious to see how it plays out.

  • Agreed. I have friends who are already chatting this way on Facebook, but its awkward because of the algorithm and the likelihood that their whole stream of thought/ commentary on the show isn’t appearing in my News Feed. It still stands that most of my friends are on Facebook rather than Twitter, so for most cases, its the place where I want to live out that second screen experience.

  • Good point Jameson. I think Nick was spot on with the lack of a real time component with Facebook and see the power of Twitter owning that. However, the flipside of that is Twitter is not that great for reflecting back. I think the hashtags are a good move towards creating more of a strong real time component. The sleeping giant (G+) does this well with Hangouts and is just as much of a real time threat to Facebook as Twitter and hashtags.

  • @jasonkeath:disqus @twitter-231622383:disqus I agree with Jason. What I envision from Facebook is that I can either connect with everyone talking about a particular topic, or filter the conversation to just my friends. Facebook has enough information to make this a great experience.

  • Hashtags + Graph Search will do that I hope

  • Agreed

  • Facebook’s always late

  • I think it’s a bit late for Facebook to introduce hashtags now, but then it’s better late than never. With Twitter being founder of them and Google+ following it, hashtags are the in thing for any social media platform.

  • Brian, great point about “the sleeping giant” in regard to hashtags and finding conversations and hangouts. That is a huge threat.

  • Good points, @jasonkeath:disqus. I really like your point about this being injected into Facebook groups. Bucketing that conversation would be something I would use regularly and refer back to.

  • Twitter hasn’t really been the founder of them @AgencyPlatform:disqus they’ve been used in IRC for years. I think that the cross-channel communication that these social networks can no longer contain make it actually better for users.

  • Amandah

    I like using hastags because they’re easy to track when you’re engaging with your fans and customers. They’re simple and easy. And when you’re extremely busy, simple and easy works.

  • I’ve always found the search function of FB to be lacking and limited. There have been times when I wanted to find one of my earlier posts or one on a friend’s wall, and aside from scrolling for days, forget it. If hashtags will improve the ability to search specific content and topics, it will be an improvement.

  • Agree Brian, G+ is very much a threat to Facebook. Wonder what the social picture will look like in 2015?

  • Good article. Interesting to see how different tools create different strategies followed by different tactics followed by cross morphing of new tools. Biological cross pollination of our systems is inevitable. The video content imbedding of hotspots, hashtags and names will be interesting to watch evolve.

  • Harold Gardner

    I grant your 3 points Nick, but what about the aesthetics issue? Won’t the hashtags make FB ugly? Much of the appeal of FB is that it is pleasing. They learned that was important in crushing MySpace.

  • It’s not as if there aren’t many hashtags there already, though I’m curious about the look myself.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Hashtags will extract “tainted”(read: openly opinion-based) news for you. And that just makes it spicier.

  • I’m really looking forward how they will be able to implement the use of hashtags in the current Facebook environment. I’m just wondering if they are already planning on implementing it in the new design of the News Feed or they are working on yet another update after the new News Feed.

  • Amy Birch

    Hashtags on Facebook should not be used until Facebook can sort it’s search functionality out. Having said that, maybe the introduction of hashtags will make searching more efficient and clearer when searching, but I certainly don’t think they should be used in a status post. #cringe

  • Thanks for the article Nick! Any ideas when hashtags will be live on Facebook?

  • Harold Gardner

    I worry that hashtags will be really ugly. UI matters. FB crushed myspace largely over the UI getting out of control with MS.

    The number of luddites on FB is also a concern. How will folks who barely survive technically deal with or benefit from hashtags?

    I can probably find what I am looking for more easily…but we need to remember that the folks on this blog are not the typical FB users. We are not the target audience of FB’s advertisers.

    Mixed bag is my evaluation.

  • Speaking specifically to the aesthetic implications around hashtags on Facebook, you can look to Tumblr mobile as a good example. Hashtags are given a special place at the end of each post in a low contrast tone. Managing the hierarchy of information, especially in an environment as rich as Facebook, will no doubt be a consideration. Looking at the usage of hashtags also hints at two things: 1) it is meant to set intent (e.g. #sooverit or #sarcasm) which to me acts on the same level as location or time metadata. Hashtags may live alongside that information and we would hardly notice. 2) hashtags have a symbol (#) which can easily be activated in the same way as mentioning (@) someone in a post. Facebook mentioning blends in naturally and has had a tremendously positive effect on the network. The same could be said about hashtags. Both cases suggest that hashtags are not “primary” pieces of content. Save that for photos and video, hence the redesign, which stages media a full bleed effect instead of wrapping it around someI chrome. With that said, I doubt hashtags would be in your face and make the stream unpleasant. Instead, it will create a much more dynamic and farther reaching experience than before.

  • emarketing .

    Interesting Article! Hash tag has been on news for a long time. Lets see how social media works it out.

  • I knew that hashtags were used pretty extensively on twitter but I did not know they could be helpful on Facebook. Very interesting!