September 4, 2013, 4:41 PM

Hashtags aren’t helping marketers get consumers’ attention on Facebook

Marketers on the social network might not be using hashtags well, a report says.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

A look at Facebook hashtags.

Facebook Inc. in June joined the likes of Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and other social networks by helping consumers find posts around a common topic via hashtags. Any word that starts with a pound sign (#) is a hashtag, which becomes a clickable link to all other mentions of that word.

But so far, hashtags aren’t helping marketers gain consumers’ attention on Facebook, according to a new report by Facebook analytics vendor EdgeRank Checker. The report found that Facebook posts with hashtags aren’t netting brands more exposure or helping them go viral.

In fact, posts that contain a hashtag are less likely to go viral than those without hashtags. The report found that 1.3% of consumers saw a post published by a friend after that friend interacted with a brand’s post that didn’t contain a hashtag, compared with 0.8% who saw posts containing a hashtag.

The vendor also found that the median engagement—which includes consumers interacting with a post by clicking the Like or Share buttons or posting a comment—for posts containing a hashtag was 0.22%, less than the 0.25% median for hashtag-free posts.

That lack of a hashtag effect stands in contrast to Twitter, where hashtags make a post far more likely to get retweeted, which in turn helps more consumers see the post. The vendor found that consumers retweet 0.007% of posts that include a hashtag, compared with 0.004% of tweets without a hashtag.

"For Twitter, using a hashtag typically resulted in roughly double the likelihood of being retweeted," the vendor writes in the report.

Facebook hashtags aren’t working, the vendor suggests, because marketers aren’t using them correctly. Most brands on Facebook use hashtags in their promotional campaigns, which aren’t likely to lead consumers to engage with the posts. Instead, brands should tie hashtags to interesting topics likely to spark consumer interest, for instance, #lastbeachday around Labor Day, the vendor says.

EdgeRank Checker analyzed more than 500 brand pages that posted both with and without hashtags during July. Combined, the pages posted more than 35,000 times during the month; of those posts more than 6,000, roughly 17%, contained hashtags. The vendor then averaged each page's performance with and without hashtags. On Twitter, EdgeRank Checker analyzed about 50 large companies’ Twitter accounts.

 

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