Hashtags on Facebook 103: How will Facebook change?

Posted on 8/1/2013 by Lydia Baehr Public Relations in Industry News Public Relations tools Facebook Social Media Hashtags Tags

We’ve given you a how-to and a history lesson, now it’s time for a class discussion!

In our last post, “Hashtags on Facebook 102: The history of the hashtag,” we explored the invention of the hashtag and how it is currently used on sites like Twitter and Tumblr. The addition of hashtags will add the three criteria that the inventor of the hashtag sought, “contextualization, content filtering and exploratory serendipity,” to Facebook. This will fundamentally enhance the user experience.

Chris Messina, inventor of the hashtag/social media genius

1.    Contextualization – Facebook users will be able to put their thoughts into a particular context or tie a seemingly unrelated series of posts together with a common tag. For example, if a user is going to attend the South by Southwest festival, they might tag all of their posts and links relating to the festival with #SXSW. If they share a link to a hotel in Austin, Texas and tag it with #SXSW, all of their friends will know that it is related to their upcoming trip.

2.    Content filtering – Facebook users will be able put their content into a larger conversation and easily sort through it. To continue with the example above, if someone is attending South by Southwest they can search for #SXSW and see links related to the festival.

They could get a last-minute pass to the festival or find an empty hotel room that someone else is offering. They may also see the latest news on performances.

3.     Exploratory serendipity – Facebook users can encounter content they would not have seen without hashtags. For example, if someone is a fan of a particular musician they might search for their name. They could find a link to a rare video of a performance or start a conversation with someone they have never met who loves the same musician.

The most interesting part of the Facebook hashtag experiment is that users are identified by their real-world identity. Facebook connections are still heavily dependent on geographic location and face-to-face introductions. Facebook friendships are based on real-life connections that involve maintaining certain social manners to avoid repercussions.  

There are several open-ended questions raised by allowing clickable hashtags on Facebook:

  • Will users begin to use Facebook hashtags to hold two-way conversations with strangers, or only engage in two-way conversations with existing friends?
  • Will users make new friends that they have no existing connection to?
  • Will users lock down their privacy settings further or to share more?
  • Will users become more open with controversial opinions, or will they stay within a certain realm of politeness (for example, avoiding political and religious talk)?
  • How will hashtags affect group organization?

Let us know what you think the answer to these questions might be in the comments.