Facebook is a tough platform to crack—there’s no doubting that.
Whether you’re an in-house marketer trying to promote content organically, or simply looking to boost dwindling engagement on your posts, Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm is making it trickier for Pages to make their content visible to their fans if they’re not paying for it.
Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a huge change in how much branded content a user will see in their Feed:
But, if you’ve noticed an abundance of hashtags in your News Feed recently, you might be questioning whether using them could be the solution to your organic reach problem—and if they’ve got the power to trigger an improvement in your contents’ engagement rate.
Spoiler alert: They do.
Here’s everything you need to know about using hashtags on Facebook, including why you need to sprinkle them into your existing content, and how to make the most out of them.
Three reasons why Facebook hashtags help businesses
“Do hashtags work on Facebook?” is a question on everyone’s lips.
If it’s on yours too, here are three reasons that prove they might be worth the added effort:
1. Posts with hashtags can be found in Facebook search
Facebook’s search feature might not be as popular as Google’s, but don’t underestimate the power of being found through there.
Not convinced? Let’s do a mini-experiment. How many times have you used Facebook search to find your work colleague, what your 2001 high school crush looks like now, or a hashtag you’ve seen in a marketing campaign?
Even if your answer is “once”, your target customer does the same—so making your Facebook content visible to them is only going to help with your organic reach.
Using hashtags is a fantastic way to do that.
Let’s take #SocialMediaWeek2018, for example. If you’re using that hashtag in relevant Facebook posts, someone searching for the hashtag could land on your content—without even following your page or profile.
Location-based hashtags, like #SMWLDN, could help to make your Facebook content visible to local people while boosting engagement, too.
But do location-based hashtags perform better than non-location hashtags? Let’s take a look at the engagement on recent posts for each example:
Although both hashtags have the same number of likes, the location-specific hashtag produced more comments and shares.
Why? Well, there could be a simple explanation: People browsing location-specific hashtags are likely to be more interested in the topic being discussed. Their search is more specific; they’re looking for content around a certain event.
The same applies to non-branded hashtags, too.
Using popular phrases like #TravelTips, #MondayMotivation or #ThrowbackThursday in your Facebook posts can make your content visible to people searching for them—like this example:
Granted, the people who find your post through a generic hashtag search might not have a genuine interest in your business. But making yourself known, and proving you’ve got your finger on social media trends, could pay-off in the long run.
2. It makes your multi-channel campaigns consistent
Are you using other channels—like Twitter, email marketing or billboards—to make your business seen? Hashtags might naturally work their way into your content.
But, don’t just limit your hashtag usage to one communication attempt with your potential customer; use them in your Facebook posts to make your multi-channel campaigns consistent.
For example: If we decided to use a billboard to raise brand awareness for Sendible, we might use #SMRegret (Social Media Regret), and encourage people who view the ad to share their biggest regret from social media using the same hashtag.
However, instead of pushing customers to head to Twitter (the platform where people use hashtags as second nature), create a Facebook post to accompany your multi-channel campaign, and catch the people who’re browsing your hashtag.
Here’s an example of how Coca-Cola use this hashtag strategy with their #ShareACoke campaign on Twitter:
...and on Instagram:
...and on Facebook, too:
Notice how each of their posts fit together, despite being posted to different platforms?
Along with making it easy for your audience to remember your marketing campaign, consistency helps to build a strong brand—and has been proven to influence a 23% revenue increase, on average (source: A Demand Metric Benchmark Report, 2016).
You’d be mad to miss out!
3. Create a community on Facebook
If you’re branding your Facebook posts with a hashtag, why not encourage your audience to do the same? Not only would that help to spread the word, but it helps with building a community of loyal customers around your brand, too.
Let’s put that theory into practice.
If a property management company wanted to build a community through Facebook hashtags, they could tag a video on house buying tips with #BRANDTips—and ask their customers to share their best tip using the same hashtag.
What happens then? Well, that initial post would be found in Facebook search for the #BRANDTips hashtag.
As soon as word spreads about the value you’re giving, potential customers might be incentivized to get involved and improve their own reach. Then, you’ll build an engaged group of people who’ve responded to your Facebook hashtag campaign, and have enough content to dominate the #BRANDtips hashtag feed.
Those people who’ve already engaged with your brand could be more likely to convert later down the line, too—which would boost the $$$ return you’d get on your time, effort and cash investment.
Back in 2015, Redbull used this hashtag tactic on their Facebook Page with their #PutACanOnIt campaign. Asking customers to share a photo of their Redbull drink, it generated a ton of free User Generated Content (UGC) and encouraged people to get involved with their campaign:
Top tip: If you fancy taking this a step further, use the Facebook hashtag you’ve created when using online communities to promote content. People will instantly recognize it’s you, and if you’ve built a good reputation in that group, you could see a ton of new engagement on the piece itself.
How to find the perfect hashtag for Facebook posts
So, are you on-board with the Facebook hashtag revolution?
There’s one thing you’ll need to master, first: Finding the perfect hashtag for your posts.
It’s not as simple as throwing the first handful of hashtags that spring to mind when you think about using one in your content. You’ll need to make sure the hashtag is relevant and popular before allowing it to creep into your Facebook posts:
1. Look which hashtags your followers are already using
Do you know which hashtags your followers are using already?
If not, make it the first task on your finding hashtags to-do list. That’s because finding (and replicating) the hashtags your ideal customers are already using means you can build relatability through social media—and crop up if they’re browsing the hashtag through Facebook’s search feature.
To do this, follow your audience across all the social media platforms you’re active on.
Can you spot which hashtags they’re using? How often do they use them?
For example: After analyzing your followers’ Twitter posts, you might find a huge chunk of them use the #FollowFriday hashtag.
That could form the basis of your next Facebook post.
If you sell furniture, use the #FollowFriday hashtag to give a shoutout to your favorite interior design bloggers. If you’re a digital marketing agency, use the hashtag to thank some of your best clients for sticking with you.
2. Use Hashtagify.me
Another way to find the perfect hashtag is to use Hashtagify.me—a nifty tool which helps marketers to find hashtags they can in their social media campaigns.
Simply pop in one of the well-known hashtags used by people in your industry (or a well-known phrase you found from step one!), and find a bunch of similar suggestions that you could sprinkle throughout your Facebook posts:
The best part about this tool? You’re able to see important details about each hashtag that makes your shortlist, including:
- Popularity: How many people use the hashtag?
- Weekly and monthly trend: Is the hashtag becoming more or less popular week-by-week and month-by-month?
As a general rule: Opt for hashtags that are increasing in popularity—even if they’re not popular yet.
Although these phrases might not drive many results in the short-term (since they’re not being searched-for much), but if you’re able to make a strong connection between the hashtag and your brand, you could see better results later down the line.
(Pssttt… Take full advantage of Hashtagify.me by using it to find Twitter hashtags, too!)
3. Analyze your competitor’s posts
In business, you’re always going to have competitors.
Unfortunately, one of those competing businesses might seem like they have the secret sauce to master Facebook marketing—but that’s not a bad thing.
You can get your detective goggles on, find it, and replicate it yourself.
To do this, simply find the Facebook Pages of your competitors. Have a browse through the recent content posted to their Page. Are they using hashtags? If so, which ones are they using? And do they tend to get good engagement?
This should give you a shortlist of hashtags you shouldn’t be missing out on.
It might sound like you’re spying on them, but in the social media world, you keep up or fall behind!
Five quick tips on how to make the most out of hashtags on Facebook
Now we’ve got the basics covered, you want to understand the best practice of using them on Facebook, right?
Use these five quick tips to make the most out of your newfound hashtags:
1. Use hashtags in sentences
If there’s one thing that irritates me most about hashtag usage on Facebook, it’s this: Repeating the same word—one hashtagged, one not—in the same post.
Why? Because, to put it simply, it looks silly. Here’s an example:
“Lots of great tips from the B2B Marketing Expo today! #B2BMarketingExpo”.
A simpler, clearer, and much easier to understand alternative would be to just use the hashtag where the phrase is mentioned naturally, like this:
“Lots of great tips from the #B2BMarketingExpo today!”.
...Notice the difference?
When a hashtag is used in the sentence naturally, it looks more visually appealing. The second instance of the phrase doesn’t really need to be there if you’ve already explained it.
(You could argue that this Facebook hashtag saves time, too, since you don’t have to type the same thing twice!).
2. Don’t use spaces
Another common trap that marketers fall into when using hashtags on Facebook is using spaces to separate the words in their hashtagged phrase, like this: #Social Media.
Why? Because the full phrase doesn’t count as the hashtag—only the first hashtagged word does.
Using #Social Media as an example, you wouldn’t stand a chance at being found when your ideal customer browses the #SocialMedia hashtag on Facebook search. Instead, your post will be shown in the search results for #Social, which is totally irrelevant to the hashtag you intended to use.
The same concept applies to punctuation.
Full stops, exclamation points or @ symbols will break up your hashtag, and only the first chunk of text be linked. For example: In this phrase: “#Welcome!UniGrads”, only the #Welcome section would be hashtagged.
That’s not what you intended to be linked with, right?
3. Stick to a handful of hashtags per post
If you’ve got a bucketload of hashtags you’re ready to test, hold your horses. You don’t want to do more harm than good.
A study of over 200,000 brand posts on Facebook found that content with one or two hashtags had 593 interactions, on average. Compare that to the 416 engagements for posts with 3-5 hashtags, and 188 interactions for posts with 10+ hashtags, and there’s a clear argument that Facebook posts with fewer hashtags tend to perform better:
Along with their higher interaction rates, Facebook posts with fewer hashtags give you the chance to analyze what’s working. It’s tricky to uncover which hashtag drives the most engagement if you’ve stuffed 10 phrases into the same post!
So, stick to a handful of hashtags (no more than five) in each post you publish.
That way, you’re not overcrowding the post itself, and making your life easier when it comes to analyzing which hashtags perform best.
4. Use relevant hashtags
If you’re rolling your eyes at the thought of me acting like Captain Obvious, hear me out. This one’s important.
The hashtags you’re using should be uber-relevant to the content you’re sharing.
Why? Because falling into the trap of using popular hashtags—even if they’ve got nothing to do with the post itself—isn’t going to do you any favors with the people in that community.
Let’s take the popular #ThrowbackThursday hashtag, for example. If you’re sharing a promotional post about how your digital marketing agency is the best in the world, it’s not going to sit well with people who are browsing the hashtag. They want to see throwback photos, stories or videos; not links to purchase your product.
If you’re using irrelevant hashtags to boost the reach of your Facebook post, you’ll always be seen as “the marketer”, or “the business who just wants to sell”.
...Which isn’t great, especially when the best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.
5. Check your privacy settings
There’s not much point in using a hashtag if people who’re searching for it are unable to see it, right?
Whether your target audience sees your hashtagged post in Facebook search isn’t just potluck, though. You’re totally ruled out if your Page’s privacy settings don’t make it possible for non-likers to view the content you’re posting.
To make sure you’re not limiting your reach, make sure your Facebook page is published by heading to Settings, followed by “Page Visibility”:
Again, this might sound obvious, but leaving your Facebook Page unpublished is a common mistake. Unpublished Pages are still visible to people who have access to edit the page, but not to the general public.
If you’re using a profile (rather than a business Page) to test your hashtags, you’ll need to make your posts “public”:
This will make it possible for people who don’t follow your profile to see the hashtagged content when they’re browsing their feed—and won’t allow your hard work to go to waste!
How to measure the results of your hashtag usage
Just like any new social media strategy, you’ll need to figure out whether your changes are paying off.
Facebook’s Insights feature is a fantastic way to do this. Simply head to the Insights tab on your page and hit “Posts”. This will give a breakdown of the engagement rate, type of post and total reach on a post-by-post basis:
Your job is to work through this data and find whether your Facebook posts with hashtags perform better than those without.
If they don’t, do you know why? For example: You might not be seeing results because you haven’t used the hashtag enough to build a connection between the phrase and your business, or because you used too many hashtags in a single post.
If they do, awesome! But don’t let your work stop there. Dig deeper into the data you’ve found in your social media reports, and see if you can determine whether there’s a certain hashtag that outperforms the rest.
Final thoughts on Facebook hashtags
If you’re convinced to make a go out of Facebook hashtags, congratulations! You’re already halfway to Facebook search domination.
Make sure you’re referring to this guide whenever you’re debating hashtag usage, and follow the best practices to get the most out of your newfound links.
You’ll be a hashtag hero in no time—I’m sure of it!
Image credit: Natee Meepian / Shutterstock.com, Pe3k / Shutterstock.com, AlesiaKan / Shutterstock.com