Hashtags on Facebook have been around for some time now—since June 2013 to be exact. We have tried it, hated it, tried it again, until most of us have abandoned the Facebook hashtag in all of our posts.
That’s not true. There are a handful of companies out there who schedule the same post across all social media platforms, leaking that stream of hashtags into their Facebook feed.
After three years, is the Facebook hashtag worth keeping around? More importantly, is it worth using in your social media strategy?
Facebook Hashtag Defined
For those who aren’t running a social media strategy (or simply live under the digital media radar), the Facebook hashtag isn’t an original idea.
It first was used on Twitter to filter conversations on certain trends or topics in real time, making it easy for everyone in the Twittersphere to tweet their thoughts and have digital discussions with real people (and soon companies and brands). It quickly became a way to quickly check out published content on topics relevant to your interests.
Not to be confused with the forever-hated Twitter DM.
It quickly caught on with Instagram as a way to filter images and increase viewership. And soon the social media world was chanting, “Add Facebook hashtags! Add Facebook hashtags!”
Simply put, a Facebook hashtag hyperlinks to a newsfeed on a specific topic where all posts use that specific hashtag.
For example, if you click on #contentmarketing in a user’s update, it will take you to a newsfeed featuring all posts that use that hashtag (only they made their posts viewable to the public), whether or not you are friends.
Why the Facebook Hashtag Didn’t Catch On
The truth is that we don’t use Twitter and Instagram the same way we use Facebook.
When we jump on Twitter, we scroll through our feed to see what hashtags are trending. Then we click on a hashtag that interests us, be it entertainment, world or local news, or industry-related. We’re curious to see if our favorite celeb or our friends are tweeting and if their tweets are earning likes, retweets and replies.
Then, of course, we pop over to #teamfollowback to peruse Twitter’s follow back community.
When we thumb through Instagram, we’re searching for creative hashtags related to our interests. We want to see who really has taken the best picture of a cat or a cup of coffee—and what’s the best filter to get the best shot.
We don’t use Facebook like this.
Instead, when we’re on Facebook, we look to see our friends’ latest updates. We see snapshots of last week’s vacation and announcements on new jobs or new pets. And if we’ve liked a company or brand’s page in the past, we can see their posts in our newsfeed (or if we click Pages Feed on the left sidebar.
In short, Facebook isn’t where we look to start a conversation with strangers or to see what strangers have to say. It’s our online hub for socializing with our friends and family. At most, we leave comments on a friend’s or page’s post—but we had to agree on that connection first.
Stats, Back Me Up Here
(Granted, this study isn’t too recent, but it’s the latest research that I could find on the interwebs. I’m guessing because most companies have abandoned the Facebook hashtag altogether.)
They scrutinized 500+ Facebook pages, comparing posts with and without hashtags. After data collecting on thousands and thousands of posts, only 17% of Facebook posts used the hashtag at all.
The research found that posts without the Facebook hashtag had a significantly larger viral reach and engagement than posts with the infamous pound symbol.
How significant, you ask? Here’s the chart.
Now let’s look at Twitter. Using at least one hashtag in a tweet doubles your chances of being retweeted. And 70% of the brands analyzed received higher engagement on tweets using hashtags.
So, You’re Saying Facebook Hashtags Need to Stop?
Not quite. It’s easy to blame Facebook hashtags as the reason you’re losing follows on social media.
But the study really revealed something more important: We’re using Facebook hashtags all wrong.
Facebook hashtags, they argue, were mostly for company-established marketing campaigns that were only relevant to the digital strategy across all platforms.
The problem with this strategy is that most Facebook users aren’t going to go out of their way to click on your company campaign hashtag or, worse, use it in their own posts.
Instead, we should be thoughtful with our use of the hashtag on Facebook. We should use more common hashtags where our posts actually contribute to the topic of conversation, rather than blasting our campaigns like highway billboards.
In other words, we need to take some cues from Twitter. And it’s up to us to make the Facebook hashtag worth something.
If you plan to use a hashtag, do your research:
- Find a topic-related (and company appropriate) hashtag where the dialogue is regular and ongoing
- Check your Facebook Insights to see if your reach and engagement increases for your hashtag-using posts
- Use the Facebook hashtag sparingly in each post—one (maybe two) is really all you need
What do you think? Are Facebook hashtags worth using? Let me know your opinion in the comments section below.