Facebook has started to support hashtags, the “#” symbols to identify posts associated with a particular topic. In doing so, the social network falls in step with its rival, Twitter, where the tags are commonly used:

Hashtags on Facebook will work in much the same way they do on Twitter. When you see a hashtag in a post, you can click on it and see a feed of other posts from people’s profile and pages that use the same conversation marker. Users can also search for specific hashtags if they’re interested in finding out more information about a certain trending topic and can click on hashtags that originate on other services, such as Facebook’s photo site, Instagram. ¶ Posts that have been hashtagged, however, do follow the same sharing and privacy rules as normal posts. So even if you litter your posts with pound signs, no one will see it unless you say they can.

Hayley Tsukayama

The company indicated that hashtags are a first step in allowing users to use the network as a forum for public discussion:

Facebook said hashtags are a first step toward making it easier for users to find out what others are discussing. The company is not giving exact details about other tools it might introduce. If Twitter’s use of hashtags is any indication, Facebook will likely incorporate them into its advertising business. “We’ll continue to roll out more features in the coming weeks and months, including trending hashtags and deeper insights, that help people discover more of the world’s conversations,” wrote Greg Lindley, product manager for hashtags, in the post. . . Facebook said it will make the clickable hashtags available to users in the coming weeks, beginning on Wednesday. Though hashtags haven’t worked on Facebook until now, many people were using them anyway, having grown accustomed to them on Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere.

Associated Press

Read the announcement from Facebook here.

(Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)