Ah yes, the Zuck and Facebook have finally decided to give into the world of hashtags. Now, I know, I am writing this a wee bit behind the curve (hashtags have been live in Facebook for almost a month now) however I wanted to take some time to use the newly integrated service, gather some thoughts and come to this space with some constructive ideas. Not to mention I also wrote a post on this topic a few months ago when word began spreading the Hashtags and Facebook might be marrying up to fight their ongoing war against Twitter. So, first, the good.
Facebook Hashtags Are Making the Graph Search More Powerful and Useful
For those of you who don’t know (which I find hard to believe) Facebook has this thing called the Graph Search. Pictured below.
The Graph Search, somehow still in a beta test invite only stage, allows users to target their search criteria more effectively and acutely while also matching that search criteria to information that lines up with their friends likes. Essentially, if you search for “Friends who like The Killers”, all your friends who like The Killers will be shown to you. The idea behind the Facebook Graph Search is simple – search should be informational and social. With the inclusion of Hashtags to the Graph Search, users can more accurately find trending topics in conjunction with the information they want and how that information impacts their social friend audience. The idea is simple really: use hashtags to understand what is trending and how your friends are interacting with that trending topic. In this vein, the inclusion of hashtags to Facebook is a good thing.
Graph Search Will Be in Wide Release
The other major impact of hashtags live on Facebook is the widespread release of Graph Search to the general public. As announced this morning, the Graph Search will start rolling out to all Facebook users as of 7/8/13. The announcement is no doubt due to the inclusion of hashtags in the social monsters search algorithm. Widespread Graph Search capabilities, although it will make a lot of users groan when they see the update, is a good thing for search and social media.
Now the bad.
Facebook Hashtags Based on Now, Forgotten Archiving
The first thing about Facebooks Hashtag system which needs work is the length of time each topic of conversation (hashtag) is recorded and viewable. Take a look at this. Almost three weeks ago, a web hosting industry event called HostingCon took place in Austin, TX. If you do search for #HostingCon using the Graph Search feature, you find the following results:
As you can see, the results only show up to 7 days ago. This means if the topic is no longer trending, although there is a archived lively conversation about HostingCon, Facebook limits access to the information which is undoubtedly has archived. Now, take a look at a Graph Hashtag search result for #Dexter:
Because the final season of Dexter is currently running on Showtime (for the record, Deb is going to kill Dex and Vogel is luring them into a deathly trap) the search results are plenty. This is Facebook’s way of showing a trending topic, discarding from view what was popular three weeks ago and showing what is popular now. It makes sense – go with the now – but it also limits access to information which companies and individuals might want to utilize.
Facebook Needs Trending Topics
This one is simple. Twitter has trending topics – worldwide, local trending topics. Twitter’s trending topics allows users from all over the globe to target trending topics both far and near to see what is happening in a certain part of the world. Moreover though, Twitter’s trending topics give Twitter users a guide to a happening conversation going on right now. Facebook, although I am sure they will introduce trending topics, has a problem in so far as Facebook hashtags, as they currently exist, operate blindly and without promotion. Sure you can search for #Dexter however unless you watch the show or talk about it with your friends, you have no way to know that the show is currently trending on Facebook. Facebook Hashtags need site wide trending topics to serve the community as a guide to get involved.
Facebook and Twitter Hashtags Moving Forward
The more interesting aspect of the hashtag integration and the wide release of Graph Search is the impact it will have on Twitter. How will Twitter answer Facebook? What real time search features will they incorporate into their dominate micro blogging platform? Will the Twitter search capabilities evolve into something more concentrated on targeted data, will it evolve to include more precise real time data analysis, will it become even more shareable and social or will it continue to plug on? Whatever happens, it is becoming increasingly clear, Facebook and Twitter do not like one another. The war is only just getting started.