This is a real question marketers ask themselves in 2015—do people still use hashtags on Facebook?
For many moons, hashtags have been unequivocally associated with Twitter. While people still have the ability to hashtag words or phrases on Facebook, it seems like almost a faux pas in the social media realm.
And as a business, the last thing you want to do is seem out of touch with social media trends with your customers.
Hashtags 101: How They Work
By now every marketer should know what a hashtag is or at least recognize it when seen on social media. Formally known as the pound key to many, hashtags are now used in social media posts to be clicked, which then directs you to a group of users discussing the same subject or using that hashtag.
Hashtags have their own unique URL, which makes it easier to search what people are saying on social media about a specific subject, event or brand. For marketers hashtags have been a gateway into trackable campaigns that allow people to directly see how others talk about your brand.
In this example, the Cincinnati Bengals use the hashtag #SEAvsCIN to start the discussion of the upcoming game. This gives Facebook users a chance to comment, post or share everything that relates to this specific game.
If you’re still unsure about hashtags in marketing, try this fun game. The next time you watch television that covers a major live event (the Oscars, the World Series, etc.), keep track of each time a hashtag is used–not only in commercials but during the event as well. Hashtags are literally everywhere and the social media marketing industry has quickly adopted the method to see overall brand engagement. Also, businesses now use hashtags to reach customers who may have questions, concerns or praise.
But Aren’t Hashtags Only for Twitter?
Many people think hashtags are only helpful for Twitter, but that’s just not the case. Hashtags are very popular among most social media networks such as Instagram, Goggle+, Pinterest and Tumblr.
However, Facebook is still a great place for marketers to reach audiences with hashtags. Facebook analytics are still essential for businesses to measure performance and engage with audiences. Sprout Social’s Facebook management tools make this easier for marketers to visualize their efforts and strategies.
Compared to Twitter, Facebook uses a fairly similar algorithm for distinct URL tracking with hashtags. But Facebook uses hashtags to group or categorize conversations between people.
To get the most of out of hashtags on Facebook, there are a few tricks to properly search for the desired traffic:
Simply search for the hashtag in the Facebook search bar with the # symbol. However, this doesn’t work perfectly all the time for quick searches. In this example, we searched “postseason,” which brought up a slew of random landing pages.
The Facebook.com/Hashtag/postseason search method brings more precise results that shows recent mentions from friends and other highly-shared content. Now we can see all the relevant posts surrounding “#postseason” on Facebook.
While Twitter might show you every recent Tweet with the hashtag, Facebook can bring up different information. This puts all the more emphasis on using hashtags correctly on Facebook because it’s not quite like the wild west of Twitter.
Know Your Hashtag Limit
There is no set amount of hashtags you can use on Facebook compared to Twitter’s character limitation. But a major problem with both individuals and businesses is some tend to use as many hashtags as possible. An infographic from Surepayroll showed hashtag overuse on Facebook could be doing more harm than good. The report found some interesting figures for the amount of hashtags per Facebook story.
We can clearly see here that the more hashtags per post, the likelier the engagement falls. The Surepayroll research discovered Facebook posts without hashtags actually do better for engagement than those with hashtags.
The median viral reach per fan was only 0.8% for those who use hashtags while users who didn’t use hashtags held a higher viral reach of 1.3%. This means you should seriously consider the importance of each hashtag before you just add one for the fun of it.
The Value of Facebook Hashtags
You might be asking yourself why should you care about hashtags if they only drive down interactions and viral reach when you use them. While there’s truth in this data, hashtags still play an important part in gaining traffic and getting more eyes to your Facebook page.
Hashtags are critical to your posts’ overall reach. They give you a better understanding of how customers interact with your brand. These analytics could be critical to helping you realize how others engage with your specific hashtag in the news and on public posts on Facebook.
At Sprout Social, we live and breathe social media analytics, which is why we created the Facebook Pages report. This feature gives you a solid breakdown of the following:
- Potential reach
- Engagement levels
- Amount of likes, comments and shares per piece of content
- Number of posts including a link, photo, video or status
- Sharing by location, day of the week or gender
- Amount of questions (comments or messages with who, what, where, how and why)
#Don’t #Be #That #Guy
All of this data gives you the chance to use hashtags on trending or relevant pieces of content so you can further drive engagement with Facebook users. Facebook has a lot of irrelevant search results with hashtags, but that’s why you should focus on using it the right way.
This is sort of a close call with hashtag overkill, but each one does give readers a quick explanation of the post. Yamaha hashtags the motorcycle name, brand and the company it collaborated with to build the XSR700.
You can significantly damage your brand if you try to outsmart hashtagging algorithms by using highly searched terms in your content that don’t belong. Try not to piggyback on major events by using their relevant hashtags to sell your product unless it truly makes sense to do so.
Instead, you can be smart with hashtags during events. Here we see Sharpie using the hashtag Happy World Teachers Day. Pens are synonymous with grading, which makes this hashtag use relevant and witty.
It’s always smart to keep hashtags simple. In fact, a report from Poynter Institute, a leader in journalism best practices and craft, recommends businesses to try to use no more than two hashtags. Once you have three or more, your engagement falls by 17%.
Respect your audience and don’t overload them with a laundry list of hashtags, whether they are relevant or not. For businesses, it’s all about simplicity. Hashtags should be:
- Easy to remember
- Expected by others
- Obvious to readers
- Short (less than three words)
- Capitalized on each word
- Relevant to your brand
Remember—Facebook users are more sensitive to hashtag posts than Twitter. It’s smart to know how many posts you should send on each social network per day. That’s why Twitter can get away with frequently used hashtags, while some Facebook users want no part of it.
Let Out Your Creative Side
One great thing about hashtags is that it gives you the ability to get creative with your words. While you want your hashtags to be short, to the point and easy to digest, you have a lot of room to show your humorous side.
When your hashtags are humorous or witty, you’re all the more likely to catch readers’ eyes. Users often like to feel involved and give their quick-pitch comedy when asked. This gives you an opportunity to show some humor and get your Facebook followers to produce their own creative input.
Additionally, you can do play on words, tell a joke or just showcase your inner poet to get readers to participate. You should always be on the look out for misrepresentations of hashtags or avoid using words that are being used for another campaign. Otherwise, you could end up in in a world of trouble with your brand if you don’t research the hashtag first to make sure your results don’t bring up anything offensive or inappropriate.
Have a Plan for Your Hashtags
There’s no definitive answer among social media experts on whether or not hashtags should be used on Facebook. However, most professionals will tell you that if you use them correctly, there’s really no harm being done to your marketing strategy with hashtags on Facebook.
Hashtags should cross among platforms so you can better track the overall social media engagement on each word or phrase. Your ultimate goal should be to become more searchable on Facebook and hashtags can help you get there.
You can even use tools such as Hashtagify.me, which finds relevant or trending hashtags based on your search. This makes it easier to plan your hashtags strategically, whether you plan to use them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or all three.
But doing all of this takes planning. Like any social media campaign, you want to have an end goal with your research. With the help of Sprout Social, you not only have a pulse on your Facebook interactions and impressions, but detailed analytics to back up your Facebook decisions.
Our powerful Facebook analytics tools allow you identify your best content, whether it’s videos, images or Facebook hashtags. Detailed reports give you post-level insights on your engaged users by comments, shares and reach. The fully integrated platform is a must for social businesses and to help brands manage one or several Facebook Pages all within the same Smart Inbox.
Try us for a free 30-day trial to manage your hashtags on Facebook and see what Sprout can do for you!
If you have any other recommendations on how to use Facebook hashtags, we’d love to hear so feel free to leave a comment below!