Facebook is reportedly working on a plan to offer a feature similar to #hashtags, those short identifying words or phrases – preceded by the cross-hatch symbol # – that folks on Twitter use to tie their posts to a common topic, so they can easily be discovered by other folks who want to find posts on that topic.
That’s according to a Wall Street Journal report, which Facebook has not confirmed. (“We do not comment on rumor or speculation,” a spokesperson said.) But it’s not unheard-of for one tech company to “borrow” a successful feature from a competitor’s product. And there may be several reasons why Facebook would do this:
1) Adding hashtags is another way to engage Facebook users who are interested in a particular topic, particularly one that’s timely or “trending.” Searching for hashtags might be incorporated into Facebook’s new Graph Search feature, which is also aimed at getting users to spend more time on the site.
2) Hashtags could also help advertisers who want to deliver commercial messages to people who have shown interest by actively commenting or searching for posts about a particular topic.
3) Hashtags are already used on Instagram, the photo-sharing service that Facebook acquired last year. This might increase engagement by making it easier for people to share or search for posts on both services.
4) Facebook has started offering other ways for people to drill into specific topics, by adding optional News Feeds devoted to music, photos or celebrity and business pages that a user has liked.
5) And finally, hashtags could be a public service – offering Facebook users a new way to inject humor and snark by adding a made-up tag at the end of a post, just as people do on Twitter. #moresarcasmplease