Is Facebook playing the “follow-the-leader” game? On June 12 Facebook released a statement indicating users can start using a hashtag in their posts. A hashtag is a word or phrase (no spaces) with the # (pound) sign in front, such as #manofsteel . The hashtag allows users to track their posts and engagement by either clicking on the hashtag (it is a live link!) or searching for it in the Facebook search bar. For example, by using the phrases #starbucks and #icedteachailatte , followers, subscribers or fans can click either link to see who else is commenting and what is being said.
This works the same way for marketers and advertisers. Facebook just made it easier for them to follow the conversations surrounding a particular topic. Twitter veterans are well-versed in its use, but this is new to many Facebook users. For the past 5 years I have been using both platforms, it was well advocated among many social media consultants to not schedule Twitter posts to Facebook, nor to link your Twitter page to your Facebook because of the hashtag issue.
At the moment, you can search for a hashtag by typing a hashtag in to Facebook’s search bar. The results will show whether or not it already exists in Facebook or the web. If it is being used in Facebook, you can click on the search result to find out how it is being used and what it is referencing before deciding to use it. As you begin seeing more hashtags, you can click on them — they are live links — and see what the conversation surrounding each is about.
It seems, from the outside, Facebook is indeed playing “follow-the-leader” instance. The nice thing about social media platforms is their uniqueness. Each platform has a special “secret sauce” to their success; the people who use each platform interact with their followers differently. Facebook’s uniqueness was two-fold: harnessing the conversation, and connecting people through common interests and approving friend requests. This is what makes the hashtag use puzzling. Facebook users were quite happy not using hashtags, or even knowing about their existence. Why now, then, would Facebook finally succumb to its use?
Now, it seems Facebook has finally caved in. The question that remains: Why?
My thought: I.P.O..
Next question: How many more changes will Facebook go through before their audience finally decides they’ve had enough?