Every business with a Facebook page wants one thing — MORE ENGAGEMENT!
Achieving that has become excruciatingly challenging over the last few years.
Chasing Facebook’s algorithm is the equivalent of a dog chasing its tail. It’s pointless.
(At least watching a dog chase its tail is fun to watch from afar.)
But, what if something as simple as using Facebook hashtags could increase reach and engagement without spending a penny?
If so, I’m in!!
Spend just a few minutes on any social media site and you’ll see posts using hashtags. They started on Twitter and through the years have made their way onto every social media site you can think of.
Hashtags are a great way to throw your content in with other content using the same hashtag.
Think of them as a way to quickly categorize your content so others can search with just a click or tap and then be shown every post using that hashtag.
Facebook introduced hashtags back in 2013 as a way to make conversations more “Public”.
You’ve likely seen your friends or business pages you follow using hashtags, sometimes to help with branding and sometimes just to be ironic or funny #whydidIjustuseahashtag .
According to QuickSprout, when Facebook launched hashtags things didn’t go too well:
SocialBakers reported in early 2014 that less hashtags on Facebook resulted in more engagement – which is the exact opposite of what happens on Twitter or Instagram.
In late 2015, I asked 13 Facebook experts for their insight on using hashtags on Facebook. Here’s a summary of what they advised:
So many freakin’ contradictions!! It’s obvious no one really knows for sure.
So instead of basing our thoughts on using hashtags on opinions, let’s do some testing!
Hypothesis: Facebook hashtags will NOT have a positive impact on reach or engagement.
In order to get measurable data on the impact of hashtags on Facebook, I ran tests on three unique Facebook pages.
I posted 3 photos per day for 3 weeks (63 posts per page) alternating posts with and without hashtags.
Below are a few examples.
Photos were chosen as they tend to get better reach and engagement than links. Plus with this much content to schedule out for a test, photos were easily accessible and a wide variety could be posted with ease.
During this test, I did not boost any posts.
Again, trying to keep it all organic like a salad from Whole Foods!
Posts with hashtags typically had 5 or fewer hashtags, with some only have 1 to see if that resulted differently. All hashtags were placed in the caption of the photo (the description).
The hashtags were broad in nature, meaning they weren’t locally focused.
Did Facebook posts with hashtags perform better than posts without hashtags?
Not at all what I was expecting!!
Added bonus: the engagement on my posts with hashtags was 60.61% higher on average.
To get this data, I went to each Facebook page and then to “Insights” and chose “Posts”:
Once here I simply grabbed the reach number of each post used during the 3 week test and added to a spreadsheet.
*Do note that if you do this yourself, make sure to hover over the orange reach bar to get the actual number. (Facebook rounds up the number on the initial view.) For measurable data I grabbed the accurate number.
Based on these Insights, below are the average reach numbers per page for posts with and without hashtags.
Fans of Bigfoot:
Grace Bible Church
To further dive into the data, I removed the highest and lowest performing post for each page in order to remove any anomalies in the results. But, the only page that was affected was the Space Walk page as reach increased by 63 without hashtags. Other pages only saw a change of 1-5 people reached.
The engagement numbers (adding the number of clicks and reactions, comments and shares together) were a bit surprising as posts with hashtags greatly outperformed posts without hashtags on two of the pages.
Fans of Bigfoot had 54.55% more engagement and Grace Bible Church saw 66.67% greater engagement on posts with hashtags.
The Space Walk page did not see a difference in engagement with or without hashtags, the numbers were exactly the same regardless.
Based on this data my initial hypothesis – “ Facebook hashtags will not have a positive impact on reach or engagement.” – was false.
Posts with hashtags did have a slightly positive impact on reach and had a commanding impact on engagement.
To my complete and utter surprise!
Now that this test showed that posts with hashtags got slightly more Reach and engagement I want to leverage that strategy and apply to my pages (and you should to).
But I want to keep a few things in mind as I do this.
Hopefully this study and the tips help you make better decisions regarding your Facebook posting strategy.
I know for me I’ll be posting hashtags more often to my Facebook pages in hopes of getting more of that magical Reach!