Five Things Facebook Should Have Launched with #Hashtags
By: Alicia Herczeg
Director of Analytics at Quantasy
@aherczeg

Facebook hashtags are less than a few days old, but while they're still growing we thought we'd take as many shots at them as we can. Only half-kidding, though we all know it won't be long before we are bending to their will with ad dollars and promotions. But as it currently stands, even in infancy, the hashtag functionality is majorly underwhelming.

As of now, users who have been granted early access can a) hashtag their status updates or b) run simple search queries. It's not that cool yet - common words and phrases come up blank and you feel a little like you're talking in a vacuum. Hellllloooooo. Nope, no one. (Although #pizza does appear to be an early frontrunner. )

Facebook has said that increased functionality will rollout over time, but we thought the offering would have been much stronger if they had launched with these five additional capabilities:

1) API Access
• Share the love? Without allowing API access to developers, Facebook hashtags cannot be pulled into any external platforms. Not only is this a minor headache to social listening platforms that are already on the outskirts of Facebook, but it is undoubtedly also preventing numerous geeks, ourselves included, from building the ultimate hashtag super computer across platforms. #rude.

2) Reporting
• They forgot reporting. How could they forget reporting? Well, it's likely that they didn't. Instead, our bet is they are finalizing the monetization of hashtag usage before they tell you exactly how many of your brand's post views came from the hashtag stream. Think Twitter hashtag bidding. • It would also be nice to know how many users adopt your published hashtag, such as the one you just posted for your recent brand campaign. Hashtag reporting, in everything from Facebook ads to promoted posts, will likely be the next feature added to Facebook Insights. Until then, you can make up the numbers, Facebook said so.

3) Weighted Content
• The ever-so-secretive Facebook content algorithms that always seem to keep your friend's ugly dog photos at the top of your newsfeed do not seem the be in place yet for the hashtag streams. Right now the stream updates solely by time stamp. Similar to Twitter, where "Top" (aka most engaged with tweets) filter to the top of the feed, it is likely Facebook will unveil a similar feature to reward popular and trending content.

4) Public v. Private Trending Topics
• Facebook has said that trending hashtags are on the books to be added very shortly. They likely missed the NBA Finals, but Olivia Pope help us all if they are not up before the next season of Scandal. Everyone knows the best part of hashtags is following live events and Facebook will not want to delay this social goldmine much longer. • On a related side note, it would be an added bonus to see trending hashtags from your friends OR your networks OR those who have public profiles, just as Twitter can segment out hashtags by those you follow or all users.

5) Mobile!
• The exclamation point is for the sheer surprise. We thought for sure this one would be a given on launch day with the extremely high mobile app usage, but it was just not to be. You cannot search for hashtags on the mobile app and published hashtags in status updates are not clickable from mobile versions. It's almost like you were never selected for hashtags at all. But not to fear, even if you publish a "non-hashtag" from a mobile device, it will appear linked on desktops. Look for this upgrade to be made asap.

Now that we've discussed the many things Facebook could have launched with, but didn't, the honest question is - why? Facebook has the capability to do all of the above mentioned – probably smarter and larger - so we know it is not a delay due to technological issues.

The likely reason is they wanted to gauge the success during phased rollouts and "just see how it goes" before they sank their teeth in deep. (Case in point: the terrible user interface design for the hashtag stream. Is that real?) Hashtags are obviously new territory for them, but unlike so many other functions, it is one that they are not the first to conquer.

One of the successes of Twitter is that, by and large, users keep their tweets public and accessible. This makes for fun hashtag surfing to see what all kinds of people from Alabama to Albuquerque answer in response to #KanyeWestIsTheKindOfGuyThatWill.

Facebook does not have the same climate for openness, much to their own doing, but even so, reversing the privacy preference of users could be difficult at this stage of the game. To go one step further, the privacy hurdles and how Facebook handles them will likely be the ultimate determiner of whether hashtags sink or swim on the platform.

Nonetheless, we are excited to see these and other new uses Facebook will include as the #monster grows. What are you hoping to see?