Facebook first introduced hashtag usage all the way back in 2013. Now it’s 2018 and it seems that nobody is quite sure how to properly utilize hashtags on Facebook – even though it is the world’s biggest social media channel.
Some brands treat Facebook like Instagram and throw a dozen hashtags on every post. Others claim that one hashtag per post is the only way to go. While others still avoid hashtags on Facebook altogether. There is very little consensus, except maybe that you shouldn’t use a dozen hashtags – that will kill your engagement numbers.
The Problem with Hashtags on Facebook
Despite being five years old now, hashtags have never really taken off on Facebook like they have on Twitter and Instagram. So, what happened? Why isn’t Facebook overflowing with hashtags?
We’re getting into a bit of speculation here, but I think there are two reasons for this failure to launch. First, is the greater expectation of privacy on Facebook. Second, and related, there is less public conversation on Facebook. I’ll address each in turn:
- Facebook users have an expectation of privacy. We might laugh at that expectation given the recent kerfuffle over Facebook’s private data management, but people still see Facebook as a place for private conversation between friends and family. This means that people are not looking to get their content found by strangers – which happens to be the primary use of hashtags. While marketers may want that, the driving content on Facebook is user-generated.
- Public conversation happens differently on Facebook. On Twitter, hashtags drive content discovery and engagement. On Facebook, most public conversation happens around groups or sponsored posts – neither of which rely on hashtags for discovery.
I’m sure there are more reasons for the lack of hashtags on Facebook. But whatever the cause, Facebook and hashtags have never had a strong relationship.
So, enough speculation, what should businesses and marketers do about hashtags on Facebook? I have three suggestions for getting the most out of hashtags on Facebook, but as always, do what works best for your brand!
First, use them sparingly. Not every post needs a hashtag attached – instead, use them when they provide real value to your audience (more on that later). And for posts that do include a hashtag, just use one or two. Engagement starts to drop after three and is nearly non-existent once you top seven.
Second, use branded hashtags to organize your own content. Users aren’t using Facebook hashtags to discover and engage with random content – but they will use it to dig deeper into an interesting topic. If your social media strategy involves in-depth content (and it should), then this is a great way to build brand loyalty.
Third, feel free to use hashtags to punctuate a joke or show off your light-hearted side. Hashtags have become so much more than just content categorizing – they now pop up in everyday speech and conversation. So, even if nobody is clicking on your hashtags, they can still serve to establish your brand voice.
Where do we go from here? Should you start using hashtags or not? Hopefully, you didn’t come here for easy answers because there aren’t any. Start testing – run posts with hashtags and run posts without hashtags and see what performs better (just don’t use more than 3 – that’s an easy answer).
This also means that you can’t just shotgun the same post to every social media channel out there. It takes extra time, but you should be crafting unique messaging for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all the rest.
So, the advice is the same as always: be smart, be creative, and be flexible. Find what works for your brand and run with it – because waiting for perfection means falling behind. If you need help building your social media strategy, we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more.