Facebook Inc. is taking its business rivalry with Twitter Inc. into the realm of symbols: #Feud.
The social network may adopt Twitter’s arguably most tiresome -and arguably most Corporate -feature: the hashtag. Facebook is testing the effectiveness of hashtags and is considering adding the categorizing feature to its site.
On short-messaging service Twitter, the hashtag—a word or phrase preceded by the “#” pound symbol—is a way for people to collate many Twitter messages about a single news event or topic, like the selection of the Pope (#PopeFrancis).
The hashtag is closely associated with Twitter, and fans of the service use the hashtag as short-form creative expression.
On Twitter, Instagram, and Google+, users can use add a ‘#’ symbol (hashtag) before words and phrases. Doing so turns that word or phrase into a link that leads to all other uses of that word or phrase. Hashtags, while a Twitter staple, are historically unpopular, reports the Huff Post.
Facebook has now increasingly moved onto Twitter’s turf. The Menlo Park, Calif., social network is prodding users to share more content with the public.
In recent years it has mirrored some of Twitter’s features by creating “subscriber” lists for users, and allowing people to tag celebrities and brands with the “@” sign.
The hashtag seemed to get completely co-opted by The Man this year after American Express created a way to allow cardholders to make purchases by using hashtags.
Hashtags seem like the natural evolution of Facebook’s newly-released Graph Search. The search is currently limited to information input by users on their location, friends, and Likes.
Adding hashtag support would enable an expansion of that search functionality, letting users tune into public posts based around certain topics such as #Elections or #HarlemShake as well.
From the user’s perspective, Facebook hashtags are potentially useful, but far from optimal. At present, the site offers no way to sort posts by topic, which seems like a problem if it’s aiming to be “the best personalized newspaper.”
Earlier this month, Facebook unveiled a simplified website redesign. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook was building the foundation to be the best “personalized newspaper” for users.
Such an ambition has also been expressed by Twitter that wants to work closely with publishers and improving its news-surfacing engine. Facebook, which also recently revamped its search engine, has also said it plans to make public posts searchable in the future, writes the Wall Street Journal.
“Historically, Facebook has come first for advertisers and Twitter has been a nice add-on,” said Debbie Williamson, an analyst for eMarketer. “Twitter has been more aggressive.”
The hashtag also plays a key role in Twitter’s moneymaking efforts. The San Francisco startup encourages companies like Coca-Cola Co. and General Electric Co. to invent hashtags as a secondary brand for their marketing messages both on Twitter and in other types of marketing.
For now, the social network is remaining mum on when or if it will be adding hashtags. A company spokesperson telling us simply, “We do not comment on rumor or speculation.”