With help from Chris Atkinson

Hashtags first began on Twitter as a way to group conversations. On Twitter, you can search for any tweets including a specific hashtag to join in on a real-time conversation. Hashtags are also used as a way to categorize your tweets under certain specific trending topics that users are talking about.

More recently, Google+ and Instagram have supported the use of hashtags in posts.

Facebook is now reportedly actively testing the ability to add hashtags to status updates. This feature is likely a move towards adding functionality and utility to the new trending topics feature that Facebook has added to its News Feed. So what will hashtags mean for Facebook users? Here are a few things I'm wondering about:

1. Public vs. Private Posts

Many Facebook users only allow their friends to see their updates. Facebook currently allows the user control over whether each individual post is public or private. It will be interesting to see if hashtags only group together posts from your own network, or if will it pull in public posts as well.

2. Doesn't Facebook Already Do This?

You may have noticed that Facebook already groups together posts from your friends posting about the same subject, and places this group within your News Feed. How will the hashtag feature differ?


3. Hashtag Overload

Will hashtags be abused and overused on Facebook? Maybe. It's easy to unfollow someone on Twitter, but more difficult to de-friend someone on Facebook for being annoying!

4. Facebook Mobile Implications

As Facebook builds out the mobile platform, an addition like the hashtag becomes even more important, especially considering the use of smartphones and tablets as a second screen. Already, TV shows feature hashtags in the bottom right corner of the screen to extend the conversation to Twitter. The ability to use hashtags on Facebook will definitely impact where this trending conversation happens.

5. Is Facebook Turning Into Twitter?

We know that Facebook has already adopted a couple of other Twitter features, like tagging someone in an update with an @ mention, and the "Ticker" which offers a real-time stream of updates from your friends much like the Twitter homepage feed. Is Facebook attempting to further liken themselves to Twitter and encourage conversation in real-time?

While the Facebook hashtag is only a rumor for now, it is definitely a feature that could change the face of Facebook. One of the biggest differences between Facebook and Twitter has been the type of content shared and how conversations are conducted. Will Facebook become a space to have instantaneous, short conversations? This is a brilliant move for Facebook from a business perspective. Twitter generally plays host to the conversations revolving around world events, so this will do 2 things: take some of this conversation away from Twitter, and build it out further on Facebook.

What do you think the hashtag will bring to Facebook?