The Ultimate Guide for Using Hashtags on Facebook

Apr 17, 2016Social Media

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Hashtags were first used in social media on Twitter in 2007 and it was officially introduced to Facebook in 2013. You could’ve used it before, of course, but it wouldn’t turn into an active clickable link.

The first use of a hashtag on social media.


Using hashtag on Facebook is different than Twitter and Instagram

But as any marketing professional would know, using the same strategy for all social media channels is as lazy of a marketing practice as distributing flyers in a parking lot. While hashtags may hold importance on Twitter and Instagram, it’s not so much the case on Facebook as many may seem to think. The reason for this goes down to the nature of each platform:

  1. Facebook is for people you know (family, friends,.. and friendly co-workers), while the other platforms are for people you would like to hear from, which means it’s private by nature. Meanwhile, Twitter and Instagram are open to followers (i.e. strangers), which means they are public by default. Sure you might post a couple of public posts on Facebook to spread the word (or post public photos, you know, to make your stalking ex jealous), but other than that, most people tend to keep things for friends only. Not to mention that you don’t have to use your real name or add your personal info on Twitter and Instagram, unlike Facebook, which makes you more comfortable sharing more things with strangers on them.
  2. Facebook is for mutual friendship, while other platforms are for people followers – which means that hashtags on Twitter and Instagram can be a great way for others to discover you, unlike on Facebook where you just have to search for the people you know to connect with them and then you will both see each other’s posts.
  3. Most importantly: Facebook is relationship-driven while the other platforms are content-driven.
  4. Also, people usually share more on Twitter than they do on Facebook. Your followers will be fine or even expect you to post five posts or more a day on Twitter, but they might hide your posts (unfollow you) on Facebook if you do the same each day.
  5. The search result experience when you search for a certain hashtag is different. Although Facebook’s search result page has improved a lot over the years, but it’s still not as useful as the one on Twitter.


Hashtag search on Facebook vs Twitter

I mean I liked Rhythm Nation and all, but..


In fact,

Hashtags on Facebook can do more harm than good

  1. According to Facebook, “Hashtags turn topics and phrases into clickable links in your posts on your personal Timeline or Page. This helps people find posts about topics they’re interested in.”
    However, unlike Twitter and Instagram, hashtags on Facebook show no increase in reach or engagement. This might seems as a debatable topic, but from my testing (in the Jordanian, Iraqi, and Lebanese markets in 2013, and the UAE market in 2014-2016) I did not experience any notable change in reach (not a positive one, at least) while using hashtags. This was also the experience of others as well. This (relatively) old report from Edgerank Checker states that posts without hashtags outperform those with hashtags.And this more recent study still support these findings.Facebook with and without hashtagsThink about it, how many people you know click on a hashtag willingly? From a user experience perspective, that doesn’t seem like a frequent user behavior on Facebook. And although Facebook search has become friendlier with hashtags, I don’t imagine many people searching for a specific hashtag like they do for people and brand names.
    Also keep in mind that Facebook let you search in the same way for any topic, hashtagged or not. So you can simply just mention the keyword in your post without a hashtag and it’ll have the same effect
  2. Hashtags can divert traffic from your posts if the user mistakenly thought it was a link. Yes, I’ve witnessed this happening before. Always keep in mind that not everyone is as tech savvy as you.
  3. Hashtags make your copy look ugly. It does–that’s not a debatable issue!

Ugly hashtags on Facebook

Hmm.. thanks! But I’ll take my investments somewhere else, where they don’t use too many hashtags.


When it’s safe to use hashtags on Facebook?

So you shouldn’t use hashtags at all on Facebook, right? Not necessarily. Here is six times where I do recommend using hashtags on Facebook:

  1. You can use it as a brand statement. An example would be a hashtag I used with a brand I worked with using the #TuesdayTips to offer a new tip each Tuesday. That can also be used in cross-channel campaigns.
  2. When you’re trying to make a point (like being funny). An example would be like posting a photo of you very late at work with the hashtag #YOLO – can’t imagine how many times I’ve done this before!
  3. Or so the user will know what’s the post’s topic is quickly simply by taking a glimpse on your hashtag on their News Feed (considering that short attention span is something social media users are known for). Example: #NewYear post.
  4. When less is more: you post a photo of something you love with only a #love hashtag or post a great photo of the city with a #MyDubai hashtag.
  5. If you’re cross-posting from Instagram – which is not an inherently bad idea considering it’s a good way to cross-promote your channels and the fact that images posted from Instagram on Facebook get 23% more engagement than native images.
  6. As part of a general discussion or to view related news on an event – like the recent #DemDebate.


Facebook hashtag best practices

One last thing (Steve Jobs style). If you’re going to use a hashtag on Facebook, here are few recommendations to remember:

1. Use only one hashtag per post

Or at least not more than three. More than one is not recommended. More than three is ridiculous.

2. Use it on a separate line

Or at least at the end of your copy, not within or at the beginning.

3. Understand the technical side of the hashtag

I must admit, this is a mistake usually practiced by individuals rather than brands, but I still see some brands do it. You need to understand the simple technical side of the hashtags. For example, you can’t use special characters ($, &, !) in a hashtag, and a hyphen separates words, not connect them as the underscore does (I often see this one in Arabic hashtags, considering you can’t connect the words together directly).

4. Keep your hashtag relevant to your post

Spamming is for losers. Hashtagging every city you can think of hoping that someone from these places might see your post is.. well, it’s pathetic.

[bctt tweet=”Always keep your hashtags relevant to your post and avoid using irrelevant hashtags in hope of more reach. It will only affect your brand negatively. ” username=”GusYounis”]


5. And relevant to your users

As in everything in marketing, think with the user in mind. Would your typical audience be looking for something on this hashtag? Are you a pet shop owner? Then maybe posting the hashtag #cats with a photo of cats or cat food is not such a bad idea considering there might actually be people wasting time looking at some cat photos (it happens more than you think! ..Or so I’ve been told).

6. Research it before you use it

It’s worth doing a quick research on the Facebook search box to see which variation of your hashtag is most used, you can simply start typing it and Facebook will suggest some of the most used hashtags and how many “people are talking about this.” Just don’t immediately pick the most used, pick the one that is most relevant to your post from the most used (if any).

Twerk it baby

Don’t judge!

7. Don’t hashtag your brand name

For some reason, I keep seeing that! What exactly are you trying to achieve? Unless there’s some clear reason (like people already talking about your brand), this doesn’t make sense, especially if you’re posting from the official brand page.

8. Avoid single hashtags that are too long to read

And if you must, for some reason or another, at least capitalize the beginning of each word. I mean, come on, #imcravingbutterchickenandnaan too, but I don’t let my hunger get in the way of my good judgment.


Copyright © 2019 Gus Younis