Surprise! Facebook Hashtags Don’t Work

Facebook Hashtag Fail

Back in June I wrote a post called, “Hashtags Debut On Facebook, But Will They Work?” Four months later, looks like we’ve got our answer. The use of a Facebook hashtag makes a post less likely to go viral, less engaging for individual fans and actually decreases that post’s organic reach. Meanwhile, hashtags more than the double likeliness of engagement over on Twitter.

This data comes from Facebook analytics firm EdgeRank Checker, which commissioned the study to find out whether the new feature actually helps brands. They had high hopes for hashtags going into the study, with the assumption that “if people see an object in the news feed with a hashtag they’re interested in, they will click the hashtag to discover more interesting content related to the particular hashtag.”┬áTurns out, that’s not how users view or interact with hashtags on Facebook.

Hashtags make Facebook posts less likely to go viral

“Viral reach,” as Facebook defines it, is the number of unique users who saw a post based on connections — in this case, that “connection” is the hashtag that links one post or page to another.

As you can see in the chart below, Facebook posts with hashtags actually have less viral reach than those without hashtags.


Facebook posts with hashtags are less engaging

Hashtags even seem to wreck more granular metrics like median engagement per fan. The reason behind this is unclear. Maybe Facebook users are turned off by a brand’s use of hashtags. Maybe it’s a form of protest against the hashtag invasion on Facebook. That is yet to be determined.



Organic reach decreases with Facebook hashtag use

While only slight, there is also a decrease in organic reach for Facebook posts that contain hashtags. In layman’s terms, fewer people actually see posts that contain hashtags.



…but hashtags DO work on Twitter

The problem doesn’t seem to be hashtags in general, though. EdgeRank Checker also examined the effectiveness of hashtags on Twitter, with the conclusion that the use of a hashtag made a tweet about twice as likely to be retweeted than one one without hashtags.