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Copying Twitter hashtags another way for Facebook to make money

A sign with the 'like' symbol stands in front of the Facebook headquarters on February 1, 2012 in Menlo Park, California.

Story highlights

  • Facebook is reportedly considering adding a Twitter-like hashtag
  • The feature pulls together all posts that use that tag
  • Doing so would create new real estate to offer to advertisers

Say what you will about Facebook, but the social network is not too proud to copy. Facebook is reportedly considering co-opting the hashtags that first emerged on Twitter, following its previous aping of the Twitter model of following strangers and sharing content publicly.

Facebook is testing the idea of supporting the use of hashtags in posts to the social network, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal and other publications. Facebook has declined to comment on the reports.

Hashtags, unique and often cryptic terms preceded by a hash mark ("#"), are specially tracked and aggregated on Twitter as they would presumably be on Facebook. Twitter shows which tags are trending, and clicking on a hashtag brings up other posts with the same tag.

Facebook is surely interested in the additional vector they provide for advertisers. On Twitter, advertisers can pay to promote their own hashtags alongside Twitter's list of most common hashtags.

The aggregation pages showing posts associated with a hashtag is another natural point for advertising. On Facebook, advertisers could hypothetically "promote" user posts that contain particular hashtags just as they now promote "likes" of their business pages. Such promoted posts could get more prominent and longer-lasting placement on Facebook's News Feed, where non-promoted items are sorted by relevance.

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Facebook's apparent tinkering with hashtags is being framed in the tech press, all too predictably, as part of a war with Twitter. But the only battle that matters to Facebook in the end is the one for the attention of its own users for the dollars of its own advertisers. Hashtags will be a way to grow both.