Facebook Hashtags are for the Birds

Facebook.HashtagIf all of social media is a like a huge party where everyone is talking at once, hashtags are like signs telling people where to go to join a conversation that is relevant to certain topics.  Facebook, a social network built on real, person to person connections, is more like a dinner party with the people you know. Unfortunately, Facebook is still trying to get into the huge party but seems to find itself out of place. At it’s core, Facebook is not really well suited for hashtags, which are designed to help break into public conversations on networks like Twitter and Instagram.

Hashtags are a way to give your content an extra boost of visibility to anyone who is interested in your subject matter.

Sites like Twitter and Instagram are not built around a users real identity, a stipulation that Facebook is fairly strict about.  Tweets have a shelf life of approximately 3 minutes and most users only look at their feed, whereas Facebook posts are tied directly to who you are and are easy to back track through.  This idea of near anonymity on Twitter helps makes the hashtag the only real way to connect with other people that you don’t know.

Very little communication on Facebook is meant for people that the users don’t know, making the user of hashtags relatively irrelevant.

Also, hashtags on Facebook are still subject to privacy settings, meaning that if you use a hashtag, only the people allowed to view your page can see it.  Facebook has spent years telling it’s users to be careful about their privacy because of the personal nature of the profiles, so it only makes sense now that platform wide hashtags don’t work the same way as Twitter.

Additionally, Facebook is not subjected to the limited character count of Twitter, so the metadata hashtags provide is not as useful in helping define posts. Hashtags connect tweets and Instagram posts to other posts like it, something that again goes against it’s primary function.  Some research suggests that using hashtags on Facebook actually hurt the engagement of the posts they were used in.

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The study, done by Edgerank Checker, only measured pages, not profiles and how users were clicking them. For businesses, this means it’s detrimental to your overall engagement to use hashtags because users simply don’t click them.

Ultimately, it comes down to people versus thoughts.

Facebook is for peer to peer connection and Twitter is a platform designed to share short thoughts.  So for now, Facebook can stick to being what it’s good at and leave the #hashtagging to Instagram and Twitter.

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