What is the Real Story about Facebook Hashtags?

What is the Real Story about Facebook Hashtags?

Updated August 1, 2020
Reading Time: 8 minutes

UPDATED on October 8, 2019

In our Facebook Group, we recently discussed this question re: Facebook hashtags.

I always use 1 or 2 hashtags on Facebook. Boss wants to me to use 20 or 30? What do you think?

As you can imagine, this created a pefect storm of comments, GIFs, memes and reactions!

Join our Social Media Managers group to see these entertaining answers for yourself!

While our stand that some usage of hashtags on Facebook still remains, there has to be a clear purpose to using the hashtags. 
It sounded like this ‘boss' was thinking ‘more is good' and he obviously has his Instagram and Facebook platfroms confused.

If this is you, or your boss, keep reading!

The Purpose of a Hashtag Explained

A hashtag is

a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic

With a simple # sign, online conversations can be started, and found, on most social media platforms.

If you are a social media manager, you already know the incredible power of hashtags to find new followers, connect with like-minded brands and individuals and find new content.

But what about hashtags on Facebook?

Opinions about using hashtags on Facebook seem divided, so today we've set out to get you the most updated info on Facebook hashtags.

In this article, you will learn

  • what social media platforms hashtags can be used on
  • the purpose of using a hashtag on Facebook
  • whether hashtags are important enough to use on Facebook for your brand
  • how to correctly use hashtags on Facebook if you choose to do so

What Social Media Platforms Can Hashtags Be Used On?

Four major platforms hashtags are effective on include

  1. Instagram
  2. Twitter
  3. Pinterest
  4. LinkedIn

Each of these platforms lets you search and sort content through hashtags, therefore encouraging users to include hashtags in their posts and/or comments.

As both Instagram and Pinterest are highly visual platforms, it makes sense that hashtags would be used on these two platforms to have meaningful conversations and to find incredible content.

Twitter hashtags also make sense from the standpoint of having only a limited number of characters per post on Twitter, thus allowing Twitter conversations to continue to flow by connecting like-conversations through hashtags.

LinkedIn hashtags are not new, however, LinkedIn stepped up their hashtag game in 2018 allowing and encouraging you to follow hashtags, calling these searches ‘communities to follow'.

Facebook hashtags are another story altogether.

  • Do hashtags on Facebook work?
  • How many hashtags should be used on Facebook, if any?
  • Where should Facebook hashtags be placed?
  • Are Facebook hashtags searchable?

These and many more questions are asked on a weekly basis in our Social Media Managers Facebook group.

Let's explore together to find out if using hashtags on Facebook might be a good strategy for your business.

Facebook Hashtag's Rise and Fall and Perhaps Rise Again!

Facebook hashtags were introduced in 2013 by Facebook.

From Facebook: “To bring conversations more to the forefront, we will be rolling out a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people, and topics. As a first step, we are beginning to roll out hashtags on Facebook.”

Do you remember Facebook graph search and trending topics on Facebook? Both of these features enhanced the use of Facebook hashtags but sadly both features were taken down by Facebook.

By 2016, most if not all articles about Facebook hashtags were negative and research showed that hashtags, for the most part, brought down reach. Posts with hashtags had less overall engagement compared to posts without hashtags.

However, 2018 seems to be the year of the revived hashtags.

First Pinterest announced back in August of 2017 that hashtags were back. Then LinkedIn made changes to their platform and LinkedIn hashtags became a ‘thing'. As we are were searching for data for this article, most articles dated “2018” about Facebook hashtags tend to be on the more positive side again!

Could it be?

Is there a Facebook hashtags comeback on the horizon?

Do Hashtags Serve a Purpose on Facebook?

The easy and quick answer is ‘yes'.

Facebook hashtags are searchable therefore they serve a very specific purpose:

Using hashtags on Facebook lets your content be “discoverable”.

That on its own is a great reason to consider using (some) hashtags in your Facebook posts.

As always, there's a caveat.

Your Facebook content needs to be ‘public' so personal posts with hashtags on a profile that is only viewable to friends aren't included in these searches. Facebook Page posts are searchable, therefore using hashtags on public pages is recommended over using them in personal posts.

Next, let's look at how people use Facebook.

Just because you can use hashtags, and they are searchable, doesn't mean people actually search Facebook using hashtags. In fact, not too many people use Facebook that way. To be ‘discovered' by someone for using a specific hashtag isn't as simple as it would be on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. However, using hashtags in your posts can bring you to the top of the search.

One quick simple Facebook search revealed that when trying to find content on Facebook, hashtags do indeed make a difference in what you find!

General Facebook search for ‘social media tip'

General Facebook search for ‘#socialmediatip'

Public posts for ‘social media tip'

Public posts for ‘#socialmediatip'

Last but not least, it seems that on Facebook at least, there's another reason for using hashtags. People use hashtags to make a point. Like this #IAmUsingHashtagsToMakeAPoint and #IamSureYouHaveSeemFacebookRantsWithLongHashtags.

These type of hashtags aren't discoverable or searchable, but instead are used to make a point and to let the user stand out; to draw attention to the conversation.


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Should Hashtags Be Used on Facebook?

The latest info we have on this suggests that changes might be coming.

Just like hashtags on Pinterest initially were ‘a thing' then went out of style but since have been ‘resurrected' if you will by Pinterest who now encourages users to include hashtags on all pins, Facebook might be jumping (back) into the hashtag game, much like LinkedIn did in 2018.

At least, it wouldn't surprise this author, as Facebook also owns Instagram.

Check out this screenshot recently shared in our Facebook group.

Hashtags on Facebook

Could it be that Facebook is copying LinkedIn to let users find and curate content through hashtags, in essence giving them communities to join and find and share related content?

That would be a welcome change for marketers!

From everything we've been reading this year, hashtags on Facebook are not dead and should be part of your marketing arsenal and strategy!

Don't just take our word for it, check out these articles.

Next, let us look at ways you can use hashtags on Facebook for marketing purposes.

via GIPHY

Best Practices and Uses For Using Hashtags on Facebook

Less is more!

We think it is safe to say that overloading one post with 20-30 hashtags on Facebook serves no purpose. In fact, it will make you look like an amateur, not the expert you are.

We recommend using 1-3 hashtags in some, not all of your Facebook posts.

How should you determine when to use a hashtag on Facebook, how many and what type of hashtags?

That all depends on your strategy and goal for each piece of content.

Let's look at times when using hashtags on Facebook works!

1) Facebook Contests and Giveaways

To spread the word about a contest and/or giveaway conducted across social media platforms, or on Facebook, hashtags can be a useful tool to ‘measure' the reach of the campaign.

Hashtags impressions and usage can be measured with a tool like Brand24.
It should be noted that this only works for ‘public' posts, so if you run a giveaway or contest, state clearly in the rules that “all posts need to be public posts with said hashtags to be eligible”

2) Location-Sensitive Posts

Do you as a social media manager work with local location-based businesses, charities, or local events and shows? Using location hashtags can be a great strategy to be ‘plugged in' to the local online scene and to be part of the local conversations.

Make sure to do the appropriate research to find the best local hashtags and to not over-use them.

Whatever you do, avoid ‘hashjacking‘ other people's hashtags for business gain.

3) Industry and Branded Content

If you work with a big brand, or charity, you can use their well-known name and/or product as a hashtag on Facebook.

If you work with a small brand or small business, you can experiment with using branded hashtags in Facebook posts to test results. Measuring real data is the only way you will know whether using these types of hashtag do anything (positive or negative) for your brand.

Side note: When working with sponsored posts as a brand ambassador, using hashtags might be just another way to get noticed.

4) News and Trending Topics

Don't hesitate to use news and trending topic hashtag in curated content you share across Facebook. It's one way to become the influencer within your industry, especially if you are one of the first ones to ‘break the news'. Only use this tactic if your business model calls for your business brand to be a leader locally, or within the industry.

5) Quotes & Tips

Sharing hashtags promoting general inspirational and motivational quotes is an excellent way to use this feature.

The same goes for when you share industry tips; use the hashtag to give an #InstagramTip or #FacebookHashtagTip. You never know who might discover your content and wants to join your online community.

6) Facebook Groups

Hashtags work great in Facebook groups for content discovery as well!

The Cross-Posting from Instagram to Facebook Hashtag Debate

Let us address one more issue.

Crossposting.

When a platform allows you to crosspost to another platform, say from Instagram to Facebook, the format of your post comes into question. Once you add 20-30 hashtags to your Instagram description, the hashtag debate is on as these hashtags then get posted to Facebook and they look out of place, serve no real purpose and look, well…ugly!

One way to nullify this is to add your Instagram hashtags to the first comment, not in the caption of your Instagram post.

We recommend you not crosspost, but cross-promote!

Facebook Hashtags; The Story Has Not Ended Yet!

For those who are still skeptic about using hashtags on Facebook, there is no clear evidence that using hashtags sporadically and with intent harms your overall reach or engagement on Facebook.

We recommend you test this out yourself, for your specific brand pages, and continue to do so as time goes by.

Watch this space for updates and we invite you into our Facebook Community where you will hear about changes to these recommendations, as well as many other recommendations and updates, as soon as they do come along!

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