October 30, 2013
As one of the last social media platforms to incorporate hashtags, Facebook rocked the social media marketing community with the release of their own hashtag feature this past summer. On June 12th, Facebook announced that its users would be able to access larger conversations on their favorite topics through clickable hashtags. The company stated that this addition would only be the first of a series of features rolled out in an effort to facilitate the discovery of interesting conversations on the site.
To stay on top of a new trend in social marketing and take advantage of this possible opportunity to reach a larger online audience, our team decided to implement hashtags in everything we posted after the release date. We’ve also followed up on data regarding the feature’s social media marketing efficacy to see what others are saying. Here’s what we found out:
How They Work
For starters, Facebook’s hashtag system operates exactly like those of Instagram and Twitter. A user adds hashtags related to their post by typing a pound sign in front of keywords associated with the post’s content at the bottom. This then links the post to a larger online conversation on the same topic. From there, other Facebook users are able to find their post by searching one or more of the hashtags they added to it. Hashtags are searched by users through Facebook’s standard search bar. For instance, if a user would like to search for posts about web design, they simply type #webdesign in the search bar and browse the results.
Are they an Effective Social Media Marketing Tool?
Any marketer will tell you, getting a company’s message out via social media is no easy feat. The process requires creating engaging and relevant content on a consistent basis for a long length of time. At the time of their release, Facebook’s hashtags were expected to expedite this time consuming task by making the content posted by a company discoverable by thousands of users who had not already “liked” the company page. While many hoped that this would significantly increase a company’s reach, research has found that Facebook hashtags typically have little to no positive effect on the reach of your posts. In fact, data released by EdgeRank revealed that posts that didn’t include hashtags actually performed better than posts without them in most cases.
Our experience with hashtags wasn’t much different. We found that our posts that included hashtags weren’t reaching any more Facebook users than those without them. To answer the question for this section – no, Facebook hashtags are not an effective tool for your social media marketing plan.
How Facebook’s Hashtags Compare to Twitter’s
While Facebook’s hashtags have proven ineffective, the opposite is true for hashtags on Twitter. A quote from EdgeRank’s official research statement reports that “For Twitter, using a hashtag typically resulted in roughly double the likelihood of being ReTweeted.” They also added that “Over 70 percent of the brands experienced an increase in RT’s when using a hashtag versus not using one.” So what is the difference here? The popular hypothesis is that very few people are clicking on Facebook hashtags. This could be due in part to how businesses are using hashtags on Facebook as opposed to Twitter, however, we also think that Facebook’s lack of a “Trending Topics” feature could have something to do with it.
So should you Use them?
The good news is that hashtags are still free. If you think of one or two that are relevant while writing out your post, you have nothing to lose by throwing a couple into the post’s content. However, a Facebook spokesperson reports that “The best thing for Pages (that want increased distribution) to do is focus on posting relevant, high quality-content — hashtags or not. Quality, not hashtags, is what our News Feed algorithms look for so that Pages can increase their reach.”
So what does this tell us? Putting a lot of effort into hashtags for your Facebook posts isn’t worth your time. Instead, focus on creating an awesome social media schedule full of diverse, quality and relevant content. Gauge the interests of your fan base and give them the content they want to see in their feeds rather than a promotional post full of hashtags.