#fad or #useful

I saw a friend of mine on Facebook post their confusion with what was referred to as a “fad” of using hashtags in Facebook posts. While there is certainly an element of “fad” to them, they are actually quite useful and are here to stay.

Hashtags got their popularity from Twitter which used to be solely text-based, and you only have 140 characters to get out your message. They are usually placed at the end of a tweet and are used to place the short message within a larger context. For example, someone could Tweet,

“Wonder how Apple will fix this. on.mash.to/18PdVtu #iPhone5s #TouchID #hacked”

Without having to spell it out, we know that the linked article is about the iPhone 5s’ Touch ID sensor being hacked. Perhaps what makes this most useful, however, is that Twitter recognizes these hashtags and converts them to links. If you click on “#iPhone5s” it will show you the most recent tweets about iPhone 5s. If you click on “#hacked” it will show you the most recent tweets about things being hacked. They are essentially keywords.

The trend has now carried over to Facebook, with a twist. Instead of using #keywords, #peopleusethemforshortphrasesorreallylongsentences. This truly is a fad, which will go away with time. Unless, of course they actually are useful (i.e. readable and not unique). A hashtag applied to only one post or tweet has no significance whatsoever. A hashtag that is hard to read is also not pragmatic. While spaces are an indication of the end of a hashtag, dashes or capital letters can be used to distinguish between words when multiple words are needed to express an idea. Some examples:

  • #NokiaLumia925
  • #COfloodrelief
  • #RimFire