Facebook hashtags are less than two weeks old, but while they're still growing we thought we'd take as many shots at them as we can.
Kidding. Well, half-kidding. We all know it won't be long before we are bending to the force of Facebook hashtags with ad dollars and promotions, but they're currently majorly underwhelming. Try searching for a hashtag on Facebook. Common words and phrases come up blank; you feel a little like you're talking in a vacuum. Hellllloooooo?
Nope, no one. (Although #pizza does appear to be an early front runner.)
Facebook has said that increased functionality will roll out over time, but the offering would have been much stronger if it had arrived with these five additional capabilities:
1. Developer Access
What about sharing the love? Without the access they need, developers can't pull Facebook hashtags into any external platforms. Not only is this a minor headache for the social listening platforms that are already camped out on the outskirts of Facebook, but it is undoubtedly also preventing numerous geeks, ourselves included, from building the ultimate hashtag super computer across platforms (i.e., Twitter too). #Rude.
How could Facebook forget to provide data, like how many of your post's views came from the hashtag stream? It's likely not an oversight. My bet is that they are finalizing plans to make money off of hashtags before they give away all the possible insights for free.
It would also be nice to know how many users adopt your published hashtag, such as the one you just posted for your recent brand campaign. Hashtag reporting, in everything from Facebook ads to promoted posts, will likely be the next feature added to Facebook Insights.
3. Weighted Content
The ever-so-secretive Facebook content algorithms that always seem to keep your friend's ugly dog photos at the top of your newsfeed do not seem the be in place yet for the hashtag streams. Right now the stream updates solely by time stamp. Similar to Twitter, where "top" posts (a.k.a. the ones generating the most engagement) filter upward, It seems likely that Facebook will introduce a system like Twitter's, where the posts getting the most engagement filter upward.
4. Trending Topics
Facebook has said that trending hashtags are on the way soon. They missed the NBA Finals, but Olivia Pope help us all if they are not up before the next season of "Scandal." Everyone knows the best part of hashtags is following live events; Facebook won't want to delay this social gold mine much longer.
On a related side note, it would be an added bonus to choose among trending hashtags from your friends, your networks or everyone with public profiles, just as Twitter can segment out hashtags by those you follow or all users.
The exclamation point is for the sheer surprise. We thought for sure this one would be a given on launch day given Facebook's extremely high mobile app usage. But you cannot search for hashtags on the mobile app, and published hashtags in status updates are not clickable from mobile versions. It's almost like Facebook never gave you hashtags at all. Look for this upgrade to be made asap.
Now that we've discussed the many things Facebook could have baked into hashtags from the start, but didn't, the question is why? Facebook has the capability to do all of the above mentioned, and more, so we know it is not about technological issues.
As tech companies often do, Facebook probably wanted to gauge things during phased rollouts before over committing. (Here's one reason users can be thankful: the terrible user interface design for the hashtag stream. Is that real?) Hashtags are obviously new territory for Facebook, but unlike so many other functions, it is one that it is not the first to conquer.
Facebook also lacks the free-wheeling openness so characteristic of Twitter, one of the characteristics that makes it so fun to hashtag-surf over there and see how people from Alabama to Albuquerque spread a meme like #KanyeWestIsTheKindOfGuyThatWill.
Privacy hurdles, and how Facebook handles them, will likely become an important factor in whether hashtags sink or swim on the platform.
But we are excited to see the missing features and others we haven't thought of arrive as Facebook's new #monster grows. What are you hoping to see?
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