Has anyone noticed that Facebook’s adopted some of “Twitter” into their site functions? They now have “trending topics” and clickable “hashtags”–both of which are indigenous components of Twitter’s basic infrastructure.
What’s trending right now on Facebook? Hobby Lobby. Breaking Bad. And Serena Williams. On Twitter? Canada Day. World Cup. Wimbledon. Both sites are catering to a demographic (outside of age differences) that’s very attuned to pop culture and current news.
But how are they separating themselves enough to remain individually established?
Twitter’s busy catering to individuals that like making and viewing quick comments. 140 characters is all you’ve got (but there are numerous sites created to cheat the system). It’s for “Live Tweeters” who want a community of people. Now, you can watch the new episode of Family Guy with millions of people–even if you’re a homebody with no real social life. Head to Twitter, search #Family Guy and suddenly you’re watching with an audience you can laugh, cry, agree and disagree with.
This brings me to my bottom line point about the evolution of the hashtag (#): It’s become a symbol of something larger than Twitter. It’s a symbol of connection these days. Hash tags have become a meme all their own. To use a #hashtag now is to be on top of pop culture language. You’ve got the hash tag appearing in commercials like this one:
Hashtags are also used on one the newest social media sites, Instagram, to spot special photo days (i.e. #WomanCrushWednesdays, #ManCrushMonday, #ThrowbackThursdays) and for the SEO purposes of retailers marketing their products.
The one place I never imagined hash tags appearing is Facebook, but guess what? They are. Before, Facebook didn’t have “clickable hash tags” but they obviously noticed people still using them and incorporated it into their site functions–really taking advantage of the hash tag’s cultural growth AND appealing to their target market still. They perfectly embodied the old phrase, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Evan Williams, Noah Glass, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone founded Twitter in 2006 but the site really caught on over the last 3 or 4 years. In fact, the same college student demographic Facebook used to really have a grasp on migrated to Twitter during its hay-day. Since then, Facebook has regained its footing by expanding its target market AND adapting some of the “Twitter way”. I believe the Facebook realizes the importance of placing cultural changes on social media above avoiding similarities with the competition.
This is the same principle I have instilled into my business as a technology consultant and the owner of the Technology Center of the Piedmont Triad. We look at collaboration (a step ahead of simply adapting small details) as a valid and plausible business strategy as opposed to allowing competition to fuel all of our efforts. Collaboration is truly a step above adaptation. Seeing Facebook take the “join ‘em” approach really confirms that collaboration and adaptation hold as much weight as I always thought they did.