Facebook reportedly planning to mimic Twitter with hashtags

Facebook may be significantly larger than Twitter, but it is reportedly trying to take a page out of the Twitter handbook by allowing users to group conversations and search content.

Sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal the social network is planning to incorporate a hashtag. TechCrunch reports it will become a part of Graph Search.

If you are unfamiliar with this feature, it allows users to follow or get involved in conversations by adding a "#" symbol before a keyword. For example, if you wanted the latest on the papal conclave this week you could just search for #newpope or #conclave and filter out some information you don't want to see. Also, if you were in St. Peter's Square and wanted people to see what it was like you would use one of those terms with the hashtag when sending out your tweet.

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While the hashtag idea isn't owned by Twitter, the company did make it popular.

Photo sharing site Instagram, which Facebook acquired last year, already uses hashtags so users can sort photos.

For years, Facebook and Twitter have occupied different areas of social networking. But as both grow and fight for mobile users and advertising dollars, Facebook is looking for ways for people to share more information and stay on their site longer.

Hashtags are also a moneymaker for Twitter, which encourages companies like Coca-Cola to invent hashtags as a secondary brand for their marketing messages, according to the WSJ. Those companies put the hashtag in TV and other advertisements and encourage people to use Twitter. Half of the U.S. commercials that aired during the Super Bowl last month included a hashtag on the screen at some point.

Late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon also does a segment called “Late Night Hashtags,” where he asks viewers to use a hashtag he creates each week to tweet something funny. It is usually a worldwide trending topic within minutes and he reads the best one during this broadcast.

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This won't be the first time Facebook has followed Twitter. Facebook created similar "subscriber" lists and allows people to tag celebrities and brands with the "@" sign.

TechCrunch reports their sources tell them it's too early to say if the feature will make it or hit the chopping black, but suggests such a feature would make sense. The current Facebook search tool doesn't allow users to search the content of conversations. TechCrunch also suggests Twitter would benefit from Facebook adopting the feature.

However, using a hashtag feature on Facebook won't allow people to search everything, because comments are only viewable by people's friends and not everyone.

(Photo by Jordan Chittley/Yahoo! Canada News)

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