I notice that when I’m looking at entries on Google Plus, some of them have a subtle hashtag image on the top right, while others do not. The people who post the content, however, don’t use hashtags. So what’s going on and where do these G+ hashtags come from?
After this many years with social media, I think we’re all quite accustomed to #hashtags. You know, words that have the “#” symbol in front of them as a way of denoting that it’s a keyword or word that should be indexed. If nothing else, Twitter has taught us all this behavior because on Twitter any word that is given that leading hashtag symbol becomes clickable. Click on it and you’ll find a search results page where you’re seeing all the tweets from the public stream that contain that particular hashtag.
Facebook has also been experimenting with hashtag support, though as with just about every other change that’s made on Facebook, users are complaining that it’s going to change their experience with the site and the stream of their friends updates and information. Yeah. Things change. And if you’re on Facebook, things seem to change about twice as fast as anywhere else.
And on Google Plus, they too are looking at hashtags and how to let users categorize their postings in a useful manner. More importantly, what can you do with these hashtags once they’re available?
A problem with hashtags that you rarely read about, by the way, is that they’re what’s called a “folksonomy” and, as librarians known, letting everyone make up their own keywords means that you have a mess of similar but disconnected keywords. I might say #google, you might use #googleplus, someone else could use #google+ and yet someone else insists on the succinct #g+ (or #gplus). How do they all relate?
Google Plus is the first site that appears to be wrestling with this problem as part of how it’s implemented hashtags.
Let’s have a look.
Here’s a tile from my Google Plus page, an update from Danny Sullivan:
Near the top right you can see “#instagram” shown against a gray background as a hashtag. That’s done automatically because Danny used “Instagram” in his text. He didn’t add “#” nor did the text of his post automatically become clickable. Further, the subtle vertical blue line adjacent to the hashtag also helps draw some attention to it.
In fact, you’ve probably seen these and might not have realized. Move your cursor onto it and it turns out that there are two hashtags that have been automatically associated with this posting:
Now click on “Instagram” and the tile spins around, revealing:
Where this gets interesting is that I don’t follow “TechnoBuffalo” so the hashtag system is extracting relevant tagged posts from the public G+ stream, which is pretty cool. Notice the left and right arrows on the top (the left one’s greyed out)? Click on the right arrow and it’ll show another Google Plus posting that’s also tagged “#instagram”:
Google’s also showing a short list of other hashtags that seem to be related to the one we’re viewing. Sometimes it’s a good match – as these are – and other times it’s way off. Seems like it’s just based on what that particular topic has as identified hashtags.
Rather than thousands of matches, Google Plus seems to identify just a half dozen or so related posts. Eventually, clicking on that right arrow gets you to the proverbial end of the road, though:
The list’s a lot longer than I’m showing here — space reasons — but even here you can see that the first three are good matches, but how does #instagram and #skyline relate? Just barely.
Ah well, still, it’s a neat feature and you’ll find that Google Plus identifies and tags hashtags based on your content, and it’s even smart about it. Check out this hashtag associated with a recent post I made on G+:
You can see it added “#NewsHeadlines” even though I never used that word in my post or in the linked article. My guess is that behind the scenes it’s identified “newswatch.nationalgeographic.com” as a news source and that “#NewsHeadlines” is a standardized hashtag for news posts. Smart. Though I might have added #Hubble and #Neptune, personally.
So that’s the scoop with Google Plus hashtags. I’d encourage you to pay attention to them and click on them when it seems interesting. The more we use them, the more they’ll explore how else they can be useful when using Google Plus.
Oh, and if you want to find me on Google Plus, just click: Dave Taylor on G+.