The New #Hashtag on Facebook: How Is It Different from Twitter?

Ahmed Zidan, Jun 16 2013

Facebook has invaded the hashtag turf, which is one of Twitter’s most successful stories. The new feature, which was rolled out on Wednesday, makes phrases clickable and helps 1.1 billion users engage in a large public conversation by pooling all the posts about a certain topic (e.g. #arabnet or #dubai) in a single feed.

Facebook’s official blog said about the feature, “to date, there has not been a simple way to see the larger view of what's happening or what people are talking about.”

Users can now search for a specific hashtag from their search bar, compose posts directly from both the hashtag feeds and search results, and click on crossposted hashtags that originate on other services like Twitter . Facebook joins as well the ranks of Google+, Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine application, and even the Facebook-owned Instagram.

The biggest social media website urged advertisers to use the new feature, saying “it won’t impact [their] distribution or engagement,” and stressing that the Facebook team will enhance the feature with trending hashtags and deeper insights later on.

The company, which has gone public in May 2012, has also promised to roll out a series of features “that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people, and topics.”

The website will debut a “new product” on Jun 20, which might be the long anticipated Facebook Graph Search.

Differences between Twitter and Facebook Hashtags

The first difference between Twitter and Facebook hashtags is that the latter enables you to control the audience for your posts, obviously. Accordingly, killing a post, whether hashtagged or not, will delete all its related comments.

Another difference is that sharing a Facebook hashtag will not cross the borders of your friend list to reach the outside world, unless you choose to share it publicly.

“The new Facebook hashtags are useless in a way, given Facebook's nature; it’s not as open as Twitter or Tumblr, where I think using hashtags makes sense. Facebook is more cluttered and closed,” remarks Ahmed Naguib, an Egyptian entrepreneur and the founder of The Factory.

Hilal Chouman, a telecommunications engineer and a social media strategist at Cisco Systems, describes Facebook’s login-to-view approach as the “gated garden of social content.”

The limit of character usage is a third pivotal difference, as Facebook’s status limit is well beyond the 60,000 character cap. This is “reflected in some noisy and chaotic atmosphere on Facebook,” says Chouman.

Will the Hashtags Bring Twitter’s Magic to Facebook?

Tags were used in blogs to pool content and categories even before twttr was first tweeted, but it was not adopted by Twitter until Chris Messina invented the pound sign (#) in 2007 when he considered the mobile future. Regarding the hashtag patency, Messina told ArabNet that he chose not to patent his invention.

Only the future will decide whether this step is a #success or a #fail for the Menlo Park, Calif. based firm. “Not everything that seems or sounds logical will be necessarily successful”, concludes Chouman.

The funny thing about the new feature is that we’re not used to a hashtag feed that stalls for 40 minutes without an update. This is what happened when I searched for #breaking... And after a long wait, the feed was finally updated with literally something breaking.

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