Facebook Hashtags?! What They Are and How to Use Them

Posted By on August 13, 2013

hashtags help you search and track

Hashtags make it easy to search and track ongoing conversations, even if you’re into doll part art or Victorian button collecting. Photo copyright Cynthia Hartwig 2013 at Chris Giffin’s art studio.

Some people are tweeting mad about Facebook’s foray into hashtags. Isn’t that thievery? Well, no. Twitter didn’t invent hashtags, and Facebook’s version meets a need that Twitter hashtags can’t fulfill.

The Difference Between Facebook and Twitter Hashtags

In general, Twitter’s about hobnobbing with the universe and Facebook’s about sharing with friends. Facebook added hashtags so that friends can create a conversation with one another, e.g., about which neighborhood the macaroni and cheese foodtruck is coming to next. Nobody but you and your friends can participate. On Twitter, anyone could.

How Facebook Hashtags Work

(Just in case you don’t know how to create a hashtag, just put the symbol # before a word, e.g., #foodtrucks.)

After you add a hashtag to your Facebook post, it’s clickable and searchable. Click it and you’ll see a newsfeed of all posts that people have shared with you that include the hashtag. If you search on the hashtag in Facebook, you’ll see the identical newsfeed.

Here’s how a news feed (an example created by Facebook) would look if you and your friends added the hashtag #SanFrancisco to your updates:

Facebook Hashtag Newsfeed

Use Facebook hashtags to track and talk about one topic.

Note: A hashtag newsfeed can be public. For example, if you create one for your business Page, anyone can see it because the Page is public to begin with.

And Then There Were Hashtags

I know it’s hard to believe that hashtags were not invented for or by Twitter. Stowe Boyd was the first person to use the word in 2007 as a way to track topics on those primitive social networks known as online forums. Who knew back then that social networks would spontaneously combust, and with them, a need to filter out noise.

Enter the lowly hashtag, a kind of linguistic kryptonite. Its role has quickly morphed on Twitter from a tool to filter and find conversations to that of helping save lives in disasters or fomenting and coordinating revolutions, etc. Today it’s used on most social networks, including Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest, and now Facebook.

Why You Should Use Hashtags on Facebook

“It is precisely the private aspect of Facebook that could unleash the full potential of the hashtags,” writes Thomas Jestin on Inside Facebook. He offers the Superbowl as an example. It’s a mega-popular event with enough social media chatter to drown out coverage of a hurricane. With that many tweets on one subject circulating in a social group of millions, no one can absorb all the information.

With Facebook hashtags, you can shrink the group. For example, if you’re interested in tailgating with your friends all over the world, you can invent your own Superbowl hashtag and party on. #Superbowlglobaltailgate

So let’s get over thinking Facebook is a hashtag thug. If we start using hashtags on Facebook, they’ll evolve as they did on Twitter—to meet social needs in a way that we haven’t yet imagined. (And you know as soon as we do, the advertisers won’t be far behind.)