What began innocently enough in 2007 with a single Twitter user named Chris Messina (Mashable) has since been become ubiquitous in digital communication (and even in live conversation by some, god forbid).

We’re talking about the humble #hashtag, of course. Originally the tool of Twitter users alone, this system of topic organization has since spread into other platforms. Of course, in platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, hashtags actually perform a function when clicked on, taking you to a feed of some sort about that particular topic. On Facebook, however, they have remained a sort of conversational tick used in photo captions and status updates to add comedy or context. (Just as an example, #MyBiggestFacebookPostingPetPeeveIsHashtagging.)

Until now, that is. Facebook announced on June 12th that it would begin rolling out a new system of functioning hashtags that will be clickable and searchable for users.

“We’re rolling out a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people, and topics.” (Facebook)

These new features will allow users to:

– Use the Facebook search bar to search for a topic with a hashtag, much like they now search for people and places
– Click on hashtags that appear in other people’s feeds and timelines and navigate to that topic’s hashtag feed
– Compose a post directly within the feed of the hashtagged topic and participate in the conversation through that channel

While this development seems perfectly natural, one element of it does come as a bit of a surprise. At least as of today, Facebook’s mobile app on iOS does not support hashtags. This is one of several shortfalls that AdAge points out.

****Update:

According to the good folks at TechCrunch, as of last night (June 26), Facebook has added capability for hashtags to the mobile site, m.facebook.com. They are still not supported in the iOS and Android mobile apps. Facebook also added related hashtags, such that a search for #NBAFinals would also show results for #NBADraft, for example.

****

So what does the introduction of Facebook hashtags mean for you? Well, if you are a personal user, you’ll want to take a look at your privacy settings and make sure your posts are set to “friends only” if you don’t want your thoughts and opinions on certain topics to be searchable.

If you’re a small business owner, hashtags are a great addition to your Facebook marketing arsenal. Just like on Twitter, hashtagging trending or relevant topics increases the changes that a potential customer will come across your Facebook page while searching for an interest of theirs. Say someone is interested in #SocialMarketing. They may search that topic or click on it from another business’s post and find that you were talking about it yesterday. But make sure you hashtag terms like these, or you won’t be included in the conversation.

What do you think about adding functioning hashtags to Facebook? Excited? Confused? Nonplussed? Not sure what nonplussed means? Leave us a comment below!

About the Author: Sarah Matista is the Online Content Specialist and resident blogger at Pagemodo. Loves social media, branding, whales. Get more from Sarah on Pagemodo’s Blog and Google+.

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