Facebook is well on its way to making use of one of Twitter’s most iconic markers, the hashtag, into its service. The company is said to use the symbol as a way to lump conversations together. It is still not clear how much work has gone into incorporating the symbol and when it will be made available to the public.
The hashtag is a word or phrase that comes after the pound (#) symbol and is the way for Twitter users to collate messages related to any topic or event. What Facebook wants to see is if using it can allow a user to find all posts related to a certain topic for easy indexing of conversations. Instagram already uses hashtags that allow users to sort photos and as everyone knows, Facebook acquired the company last year, making their move to use the hashtag a bit late. The origin of the hashtag is straight from Twitter, seeing as users of the microblogging site came up with it some five years ago. They have also been turned into shorthands for memes, such as the one made popular by Charlie Sheen, hashtag “#winning.”
However, some individuals are worried about the fact that for the hashtags to truly work on Facebook, posts are to be made public. At present, status updates on your profile can only be seen by people you are directly connected to or those who subscribe to your feed; they are not open to just anyone. Facebook asserts that it will not be as public as open Twitter accounts. With Facebook facing another redesign to its Timeline, people are going to be much more wary when it comes to new terms and conditions for privacy yet again.
Facebook’s move into hashtag territory is just another segment of the ongoing feud between Twitter and the social networking giant, both of which are competing for users and advertising. In the past, it seemed as if both companies were entirely separate entities, not competing for anything. Facebook was lauded to be more for close friends and real acquaintances, while Twitter was a user’s personal soapbox. This is not the first time Facebook has encroached on Twitter’s territory; it already did so with the subscriber lists and the ability to tag brands and public figures with the “@” sign. While Twitter is a mere fraction of Facebook’s size, it is still a worthy competitor in terms of mobile and online advertisers since these advertisers seem to love Twitter for its ability to advertise in real time. The symbol also plays a big role in the moneymaking efforts of Twitter. The microblogging company encourages big companies, like General Electric and Coca Cola, to come up with their own unique hashtags that work as their secondary brand for their marketing efforts both on Twitter and other platforms. During the last Super Bowl, Twitter said that half of the national TV commercials, 26 of them, made use of a hashtag. One that was included was Paramount Farms Inc.’s Wonderful Pistachios, which created the hashtag #CrackinStyle and showed it on screen during the Super Bowl. The ad featured Psy, the singer behind the phenomenon “Gangnam Style”.
Twitter is said to make some half a billion dollars in advertising revenue for this year alone, according to eMarketeer, while Facebook made a whopping $4.3 billion from advertising last year. Debbie Williamson, an eMarketer analyst, had this to say: “Historically, Facebook has come first for advertisers and Twitter has been a nice add-on. Twitter has been more aggressive.” This immense gap in revenue is made narrow for mobile advertising, which Twitter making an estimated $249 million this year, and Facebook with $851 million.