Facebook hashtags have always been there, despite the fact they had zero functionality until now.
In the past, Facebook hashtags were used in a similar fashion to Twitter’s usable hashtags, with the distinct difference of being unclickable.
While Twitter’s version led to other open tweets with the same hashtags appended, Facebook hashtags served mainly as punctuation, in an interesting illustration of the purpose of hashtags in regards to social media conversation.
Functionality is the core of hashtagging in general and somewhat necessary in business and media use of hashtag-enabled services to boost content, but casual and personal users adopted the practice as a sort of nuance to general commentary.
What happens then is that hashtags become another layer of tech-influenced vernacular, used to drive home a point or add a second concept to a statement without changing the first.
Facebook hashtags had in the past not led to any other content, and seemed mainly to be used in posts lamenting the uselessness of hashtags on Facebook. (I’ve even gotten hashtagged text messages, which is another example of their relevance as a communication function today.)
Teresa Caro, senior vice president of social at Engauge, a marketing and advertising agency, tells USA Today that Facebook hashtags were an inevitability given their current reach:
“Imitation is the best form of flattery, though this is long overdue … Facebook has to do this to be relevant among advertisers, especially as they try to reach consumers.”
Michael Lazerow, chief marketing officer of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, told the paper that everyone has to jump on the Facebook hashtags bus now, as the new functionality adds a layer to Facebook use for business that cannot be ignored:
“Facebook and hashtags are two words social marketers absolutely must pay attention to … The door is open for companies to better discover their customers’ immediate interests, creating the potential for increased real-time marketing based around ongoing pop culture, sports and other major events.”
By all accounts, however, the bigger story with Facebook hashtags is the implication — that Facebook is, like Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, moving toward less of a walled garden format and facilitating organic “new friend” bonds. Like Open Graph, Facebook hashtags boosts your ability to connect with others not on your friends’ list or in your network — a definite shift from the social network’s closed circle origins.