Facebook introduces @ tagging, tapping Twitter behavior for enhanced engagement

This isn't just an engagement platform. This is a business move.

Facebook announced today that people can now tag their friends in their status messages and posts by using the @ symbol, a la Twitter. This marks yet another feature that Facebook has observed and eventually "borrowed" from another social network -- with Twitter and FriendFeed (now Facebook-owned) being among the most popular feature contributors.

According to the Facebook blog:

Now, when you are writing a status update and want to add a friend's name to something you are posting, just include the "@" symbol beforehand. As you type the name of what you would like to reference, a drop-down menu will appear that allows you to choose from your list of friends and other connections, including groups, events, applications and Pages. Soon, you'll be able to tag friends from applications as well. The "@" symbol will not be displayed in the published status update or post after you've added your tags.

Even though the "@" symbol does not show up after the tagging is complete, this is a very smart move my Facebook. As Twitter has risen in popularity, referring to friends with "@" in front of their screen names has become an innate cyber culture behavior (kind of in the way that people went from using "LOL" and "BRB" only in IM to email and other communications).

This allows Facebook to be even more of a connector and engagement platform than ever before. Friends of friends can now view your public Facebook page after a friend has mentioned spending time with you, and that might eventually grow networks.

There's a business benefit here for Facebook. In addition to growing networks, it's also going to drive page views across more profiles and profile preview pages. This is an opportunity for driving more advertising views, and with hope, more advertisers to the social network.

One question I have -- and I urge anyone who has the answer to comment -- is how will this affect people who automatically feed their tweets into their Facebook status messages? Since many people use different screen names on Twitter that don't map to their real names (i.e. "mediaphyter" versus "Jennifer Leggio") will this eventually create some identity confusion among users of both Facebook and Twitter?

Facebook is currently rolling the feature out and isn't yet available for all users.

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