When one thinks of Twitter, two things immediately come to mind. One is the 140 character limit. The second is the presence of hashtags. A hashtag is a Twitter feature that allows the company to quickly index tweets according to topic or relevance. It is usually a word or a short phrase preceded by the number sign or the ‘hash mark’(#). Through hashtags, Twitter has been able to gather the top tweets or the trending topics which represent the top subjects that people are talking about in real-time.
Hashtags are also a way for Twitter to generate revenue through advertising. Sponsored Tweets and Sponsored Topics are a great way for companies to attain visibility as the top Twitter feeds are usually the ones which are trending. Similarly, it is also a great way to target custom audiences. A group of people who are talking about #SuperBowl are more likely to be sports fans who will buy sports products or so.
In contrast to the real-time power of Twitter’s hashtags, Facebook’s News Feed and Timeline has traditionally been touted as lagging behind in real-time. This may have pushed Facebook to test the idea of supporting the use of hashtags in status updates and Facebook posts.
A hashtag introduction to the news feed may also increase advertising revenue for Facebook as well. If it becomes real-time competitive, advertisers may use Facebook instead of Twitter when targeting big events such as the recently concluded SuperBowl and Oscars.
This won’t be the first time that Facebook has duplicated a Twitter feature. A long time ago, a feature was introduced to tag friends on Facebook posts by appending the ‘@’ sign. This is of course similar to how Twitter mentions work.
While things are still up in the air about this new feature, it is undeniable that an update such as this may be very beneficial for Facebook. If this will spark further ire on Twitter’s part, that’s what we’ll have to see.