Twitter hashtags are a great way to find content on a particular topic, and to get your tweets in front of a larger audience. It’s logical to think that if they work on Twitter, they would work on Facebook too.
Unfortunately for busy social media marketers, that’s simply not the case.
Hashtags have been in use on Facebook since 2013, but they just haven’t gotten the traction that they have on Twitter.
It may be helpful to understand how the hashtags work on different sites to see what may be getting in the way of their being effective.
Differences in Hashtag Searches on Twitter and Facebook
Hashtags exist to allow people to see a different flow of information than they might otherwise see on their profile.
On Twitter, hashtags give you a way to see all tweets about a particular topic, as in this recent screenshot of a search for #marketing:
Other social media platforms like Instagram also let users include hashtags as a filter to find information on specific topics.
Facebook users have already actively filtered their content by choosing what pages to like/people to be friends with; they generally only want to see content from these pages.
Twitter and Instagram users are much more likely to be interested in finding content around a specific topic, so hashtags come in very handy for them.
For example, let’s say I see a tweet from someone I follow about a local fire, using the hashtag #BoulderFire. I would be very interested in searching for that hashtag to see what other people, who I don’t follow, are saying about that topic.
A hashtag search on Twitter will show me live results of tweets using my chosen hashtag.
Facebook and Google+, on the other hand, use their rules and algorithms to determine what is seen from a click on a hashtag. My first result for a #marketing search looked like this, but who knows what another searcher might see:
Algorithms are not shared, but Facebook’s seems to take into account factors including how popular a post is, how closely you’re related to the page that posted it, and how often you interact with the poster.
Potential Downsides of Facebook Hashtags
In 2013, an EdgeRankChecker study determined that using hashtags on Facebook might actually lead to decreased reach. At the time of the study, the couldn’t find any correlation between improved reach and hashtags, regardless of the size of the followers.
Hashtags can also have an impact on readability, especially if too many are used or they aren’t the right ones. Too many hashtags can also give the impression that the message is spam, and that will definitely cause readers to lose interest.
Privacy and the Limitations of Using Hashtags on Facebook
Aside from decreasing readability and looking like spam, using hashtags on Facebook simply isn’t an efficient way to reach new readers due to privacy restrictions.
Facebook marketer Mari Smith offers this overview of privacy settings and their impact on hashtags:
- As with all personal profile features on Facebook, privacy settings prevail.
- If you publish a post on your profile to friends only, and the post contains a hashtag, the hashtag will be clickable and open up to display all other posts on Facebook containing that hashtag.
- But, ONLY friends can see friends-only posts that show up in hashtag searches.
- Public posts—with or without hashtags—are public.
- Private (friends-only) posts—with or without hashtags—are just that: private and visible to friends only.
- Even when friends include hashtags in comments on your friends-only thread, your post is still private and visible just to your friends.
- With hashtags shared in private groups, that clickable hashtag will open to show public posts with that tag (along with any friends’ posts with that tag), but posts from the private group are only available to group members.
- Individual comments on threads do not surface in hashtag searches.
Use Hashtags On Facebook Effectively
If you’re cross-posting Twitter and Facebook posts simultaneously, keep these hashtags guidelines in mind so that you can save time without experiencing any negative effects on your Facebook marketing efforts.
- Write your hashtag as a single word without any spaces.
- Keep your hashtags short and sweet and capitalize the first letter of each word.
- Numbers can be included but not punctuation or special characters
- Capitalize the first letter of each word if you do have a longer hashtag
Do your research on the hashtag you want to use and make sure it matches up with your message.
Sites like Hashtagify.me can help you find other hashtags related to a specific tag. You can also search your hashtag in Facebook’s search to see posts that are associated.
Use 1-2 hashtags in your post that fit with your topic. Any more than this will create visual clutter, and may decrease your post’s reach.
Facebook does create a unique url for the hashtags, so you can use that url in other areas to direct people to that topic if that strategy seems relevant to your goals.
Consider using trending hashtags if their topics match up with your post content.
Facebook trending topics are selected by their staff and are related to current events and hot topics; they’ll appear on the right side of users’ home feeds, and look something like this:
Unlike on Twitter, however, the trending categories are not universal: they are tailored to a particular person’s interests.
This means that what I see as “Trending” won’t be the same as what you see, or what your target audience sees. That makes getting on a hashtag band wagon a lot harder on Facebook than on Twitter.
Test Hashtags for Your Specific Profile
If hashtags need to be incorporated into your Facebook feed, use them wisely and test, test and test again. Your specific audience response will be the best indicator of how to go forward.
Set an objective for testing and be sure to follow up by checking your reach and engagement numbers to see if the hashtags are having a positive or negative impact.
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