It’s not hashtags, but it’s not not hashtags either.
Today, Threads has announced that it’s launching a new test of topic tags in posts, which will enable you to link your Threads updates to a broader selection of posts on the same subject.
As you can see in this example, now, when you’re adding a subject, entity, or likely discussion trend, you’ll have the option to tap the hash icon, which will then enable you to tag your text with an active link, just like a hashtag, but without requiring an actual hashtag itself, so you don’t need to know the right tags to use.
As explained by Instagram:
“When you’re creating a Threads post, press the # button or type “#” followed by text to add a tag. When you start typing, corresponding options will appear – or you can create your own tag. Once you select the tag and post, people will be able to click into the tag to see related posts on the topic.”
How is that different to the regular hashtag process?
Likely because it requires user input for each tag, so you can’t just cut and paste a post and have it linked to trending tags, based on the text alone. With topic tagging, you actually need to manually tag each post with the relevant tag, which could help to limit misuse by spammers and scammers who look to latch onto trending tags to peddle their rubbish.
Also very important:
“You can only add one tag to a Threads post at a time.”
So you can’t just add a heap of tags in the hopes of maximizing your exposure potential, with each post limited to just one relevant tag. This element was spotted in testing recently.
Thus far, the Threads team has been very cautious about topic categorization due to concerns around spammy usage, while tags can also create less desirable incentives around engagement in-stream.
When you add topics, and a system that sorts the most relevant posts within each topic stream, that inevitably means that you’re going to see posts ranked by engagement, in some form, which then leads to more people fishing for Likes and replies, in order to maximize their exposure potential with trending tags.
With Threads, Meta is determined to create a more positive way to engage in public conversation, and tags could erode this, which is why it’s experimenting with more limited forms of content sorting, based on different elements, not just hashtags alone.
But tags are still somewhat necessary. People want to see the latest trending discussions around key topics, and if Meta really wants to beat out X on this front, it needs to enable users to quickly and easily get up-to-the-minute insights into the latest trends.
This new tagging option may cater to this, and it’ll be interesting to see how it works in practice, and whether there are added elements of friction to stop misuse at scale.
We’ll find out soon. Instagram says that the new functionality is being initially tested with users in Australia, before considering a broader roll out.