Social networking giant Facebook is now adopting the infamous Twitter “hashtag” to help members keep track of popular topics being discussed on the social network.
“Starting today, hashtags will be clickable on Facebook. When you click on a hashtag in Facebook, you’ll see a feed of what other people and pages are saying about that event or topic,” the company said in a statement. “Hashtags on Facebook are just a first step. We’ll be rolling out more features in the coming weeks and months that make it even easier to discover and participate in conversations about shared interests on Facebook.”
Facebook also said it looks forward to working with media partners, broadcasters, and journalists on how best to leverage these new tools.
Cory Bergman at Lost Remote writes:
As Twitter says, “95% of live TV conversation currently happens on Twitter,” and that assertion drives Facebook nuts. Technically, it’s 95% of the public conversation, but with the vast majority of Facebook’s conversations happening in private, there’s been no way to know.
“Between 88 and 100 million Americans log in to Facebook every night during prime time TV hours, which represents a significant opportunity for broadcasters, advertisers and our other partners,” explains Facebook’s Justin Osofsky, who oversees the company’s platform partnerships. “A recent Nielsen survey found that 29% of respondents post on Facebook about TV shows.”
Osofsky added that Facebook users mentioned the “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones 1.5 million times while it was on the air — and that’s out of 5.2 million total viewers. “In fact, during the slot that ‘Red Wedding’ aired, there were more than 70 million people logged into Facebook in the United States alone,” he said.
Tumblr, Pinterest and other social networks also use hashtags, and Google announced last month that it was adding hashtags to its Google Plus service.
In a blog post, Facebook said it, too, wanted to make it easier for its users to participate in a common conversation.
“Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook to share their thoughts on big moments happening all around them. Whether it’s talking about a favorite television show, cheering on a hometown sports team or engaging with friends during a breaking news event — people on Facebook connect with their friends about what’s taking place all over the world,” Greg Lindley, a Facebook product manager, wrote in the blog post. “To bring these conversations more to the forefront, we will be rolling out a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people and topics.”
In 2007, Twitter user Chris Messina created the hashtag as we know it today. Twitter eventually adopted the system of organizing tweets around a certain subject into its API and its broader ecosystem. Since then, the hashtag has been adopted by other services, including Flickr, Tumblr, Google+ and even Facebook-owned Instagram.
Anthony Ha at Techcrunch brought up the privacy issue:
To illustrate the scale of the conversation on Facebook, the company notes that between 88 million and 100 million Americans are using the service during primetime television hours. Game of Thrones‘ Red Wedding last week was mentioned 1.5 million times, while there were 66.5 million interactions (which include likes, comments and posts) around this year’s Oscars.
The blog post doesn’t go into something we wondered about when we started hearing about the feature in March — privacy. The idea of a “public conversation” works differently on Facebook than it does on a service like Twitter, since many Facebook posts have some degree of privacy restriction.
A company spokesperson told me that from a privacy perspective, hashtags will work similarly to Facebook Graph Search. In other words, you’ll only see the comments that you’re authorized to see. So if I include a hashtag in a friends-only post, then my friends will still be the only ones who can see it in a hashtag search.