Hashtags have permeated social media and the Internet at large over the past year, creating a new and unparalleled social sharing outlet across the Twitter platforms and beyond.
And now, social media giant Facebook is joining the party. Last month they unveiled a Twitter-like hashtag program for its site, but a wariness among users is already showing up, especially as FB is adamant that there will be no hashtag-related advertising.
At the heart of the controversy, at least for now, are privacy issues. With 28% of FB users making all their posts public, adding the hashtag component means their posts could disseminate across the platform to a greater extent than they would like.
However, at present FB’s hashtags aren’t in danger of getting out of control, as only status updates appear in hashtag searches—no hashtag in your comment means no search result.
Supporters of the program, however, are quick to point out that comments don’t have to be public to be useful to marketers and consumers. Supply siders can identify consumers who are engaged with their brand, gathering demographics and interest in a real-time sense and tailoring advertising. And FB has a distinct advantage over Twitter: there’s no character limit or control on the length of conversations, so posters can become more engaged with products and brands and disseminate more information about themselves to marketers.
Of course the FB hashtag program is still in its infancy, but some industry gurus are already making bold predictions: if FB can encourage even 30% of its users to go public with hashtagged status updates, they’ll outpace Twitter, which at present reports 200 million active users.