Facebook announced last week that they would begin implementing clickable hashtag terms. Sound familiar? If so, it is most likely because you have already seen or used this popular function on Twitter over the past seven years.

A hashtagged term is a word affixed to a “#” sign that is used to label a status update. Adding a hashtag to a term makes it searchable so you can see other conversations on Twitter or Instagram around the specific term.

So, why would clickable hashtags be valuable to an already successful social network like Facebook? Simply put, hashtags make conversations easier to follow and they make Facebook even more social. 

Until now, users did not have a way to search conversation-specific posts on Facebook. So, for example, even though 88-100 million Facebook users engage online every night during primetime television, people had no way of seeing what others outside of their friends were talking about, and, most importantly, no way to organize that information. 

With clickable hashtags, users can now view and search posts that include hashtag terms. This makes Facebook less insular by allowing users to see a broad range of posts – even those outside of their friends. For Facebook, this provides another opportunity for advertising by giving brands the chance to purchase ads that will show up in search results. Advertising in hashtag search results is not yet available, but we expect to see that functionality rolled out in the future.

One important thing to keep in mind for organizations and individuals interested in using new Facebook hashtags is the ongoing role of privacy settings. Because Facebook users control their own privacy settings, not all conversations will show up in searches. If your page content is protected from public view, then your hashtagged posts will not be available in the search queries conducted by people who are not your friends or do not have permission to see your wall posts. Only conversations appearing on pages with content that is made public by the page owner will be displayed in hashtag searches.

As we embark on the new horizon of Facebook hashtags, brands and individuals will have the opportunity to explore and engage with more people around more topics online. We’re excited to continue to monitor the evolving use of hashtags in PR campaigns and will continue to report on trends and innovative uses in this space.

--Suzy