Do Facebook Hashtags Really Work?

September 24, 2013

In June Facebook took a page from Twitter’s book and introduced hashtags to their fans. Since then we’ve seen brands and consumers alike utilizing them for both silly and goal-oriented purposes. But is it working? Facebook and Twitter are two different platforms in design and use, so let’s take a look at how effective Facebook hashtags are, and how brands can best use them to accomplish their goals in the space.

Facebook Hashtag Performance recently wrote a very comprehensive post about how Facebook hashtags do NOT work, not one bit. They delved into 500 different posts and analyzed the data, and while it showed that hashtags on Twitter increased the chance of engagement with that post, Facebook hashtags had the complete opposite effect.

Facebook hashtags decrease engagement across the board.

What Went Wrong?

Since hashtags are such a success on Twitter, why didn’t that success translate to Facebook?

Audience demographics. First and foremost, brands (and Facebook too!) need to realize that the audiences are very different. A study by Socialnomics found that Twitter users are younger, and thus possibly more comfortable with hashtags and how they work.

Facebook users may be less likely to click on something if they don’t understand what it is or how it works; whereas Twitter users have been comfortable with that idea since the beginning.

The nature of discussion strings. Twitter and Facebook are used in very different ways. Twitter hashtags are used to follow relevant topics of interest and carry-on related conversations. Facebook isn’t used in the same way; you don’t need a running commentary as much as you do on Twitter. And because strangers can engage with each other on Twitter, hashtags make it easier to come together around a common topic.

Facebook’s platform doesn’t lend itself as easily to that flow of conversation.

How Can Facebook Hashtags Work For You?

If you are set on using hashtags on Facebook, there are some best practices to follow.

Give hashtags a purpose. For example, if you’re a news station reporting on breaking news or a brand updating fans from a live event, a Facebook hashtag has a real purpose. Next time, remind users how to use the hashtag (it may seem obvious, but remember that many Facebook users are not Twitter users, and aren’t comfortable with how they work!). Remind fans that they can click on or search for the hashtag to follow the event. Encourage them to use it in their updates too.

Don’t use general hashtags. Facebook hashtags that add no value to your post aren’t a good idea. If you’re updating your status with something about a new product (let’s say a book), tagging it with #books or #reading isn’t really accomplishing anything or adding value to that post. It’s only making it look busy.

Try it first! If you are questioning the value of a hashtag, type it into the Facebook search box and see what comes up. If it’s nothing good, then don’t use it. The exception to this is if you’re introducing a new hashtag for a campaign or event.

The Bottom Line

For now, keep Facebook hashtags to a minimum. Use them on carefully selected messages where they can add value on important topics. But go to town on Twitter! Like all things, it may just take time for Facebook users to understand how they can benefit from them.

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  • Reply Andy Newbom September 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm


  • Reply Teleki Design September 24, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Outstanding article. I tend to use hashtags on FB as a joke but on Twitter use them to get new followers

  • Reply Joann Woolley September 26, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I think eventually it will catch on – especially for events. It is so interesting to see the different audiences in both platforms. I see twitter users as people who want to grow and broaden their connections and facebook users as people who like to be comfortable in their circle…. so if the hashtag fits for that community, like a niche within the niche, I think that would work… for a big brand.

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