Hashtags on Facebook: To # or not to #?

There are plenty of differences when it comes to the Facebook versus Twitter marketing game, but the use (or non-use) of hashtags is a particularly interesting one.

Based on Facebook’s algorithm changes, it’s become increasingly obvious that users still mainly want to use Facebook to interact with friends and family– not businesses. The average Facebook user doesn’t use Facebook to engage with anyone or anything they don’t like, people and brands included. Every day, someone is “unfriended” for ruining a movie’s ending, or expressing antagonistic political opinions. On Facebook, you are very much the curator of your own inner circle. Facebook’s complicated privacy settings are a testament to this sentiment.

With all this in mind, it is not so surprising to find that even though Facebook rolled out hashtags as of summer 2013, they haven’t been picked up by the community in a way that grants agonizing over putting one in each (or a majority) of your posts. If you are a business marketing yourself on Facebook, you shouldn’t expect to see much engagement through your hashtags. Hashtags are for platforms where users can engage with everyone and everything (like Twitter or Instagram). Facebook is not that platform.

On Twitter or Instagram, where you can follow anyone and anyone can follow you, hashtags are relevant because they create a conversation space where everyone is invited. If you’re a brand trying to publicize an event through hashtags, you’re much better off focusing your efforts on these platforms, where users will participate because they know that by participating, they will likely (and easily) gain followers. On Facebook, there is no payoff to participating in a hashtag campaign for individuals, unless it is a contest or you are the owner of a business page people could potentially “like”. On Twitter and Instagram, hashtags help you connect. On Facebook, they have the potential to help you connect, but a person’s wish for privacy and control of content will more likely win the day.

To sum up, hashtags belong in spaces where users don’t necessarily care who they talk to, or how– places where #chickenbutt won’t get you unfriended by at least ten people, immediately. Unless you are promoting a specific hashtag campaign across all of your platforms, don’t agonize over what to hashtag in your post. Post a picture of a cat instead.

Cat#no

Sharon Bruce
Marketing Consultant

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