Facebook Hashtags May Hurt Engagement

| Posted on | Facebook

Hashtags have been a goldmine on Twitter, this much we know for a fact. Tweets with hashtags do better than Tweets without, especially if the hashtag is something that is starting to trend at the moment. The success of the hashtag on Twitter (and to a lesser degree, Instagram) made everyone wonder when the tags would be making their Facebook debut. It was delayed for years and years, but finally, hashtags came to Facebook. Since that day, businesses have been trying to use hashtags to help market, but have they actually been a useful part of a Facebook marketing strategy? Some new data is indicating that they may not be.

The data comes to us from EdgeRank Checker. They analyzed over 500 pages that posted both with and without hashtags. The study went from July 1st to August 1st. In total, these 500+ pages posted approximately 35,000 times during July, and about one sixth of those posts, approximately 6,000, had hashtags. EdgeRank Checker then took out as many variables as they could, and examined the success of posts with hashtags against the success of posts without hashtags.

Without hashtags won by a mile.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have seen this result coming. It seems to stand to reason that, at worst, posts with hashtags would perform as good as posts without. After all, adding a hashtag doesn’t take away from the post at all, it just adds a little something. Unfortunately, the data doesn’t lie. Let’s look at some of the results.

First, here is the graph showing the median viral reach of posts with hashtags vs. posts without hashtags.

Facebook Median Viral Reach

 

As you can see, no hashtags is the clear winner. This doesn’t change when you change the size of the business either:

1M+ median viral reach

As you can see, even when pages have a huge following, posts without hashtags just do better.

WHY?

It’s impossible to know for sure why posts with hashtags don’t do as well, but we have a theory. Many businesses are trying to force hashtags into every post, even ones where they don’t actually have anything useful to hashtag, so it comes off looking like spam. Even worse than that, companies are trying to build marketing campaigns around hashtags (like they do on Twitter) and they are failing miserably. It seems that on Facebook, unlike Twitter, people don’t see hashtags as a value add, they see them as marketing.

If you’re going to use hashtags, make sure you do some research and ensure they aren’t doing more harm than good.

 

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