On Facebook, Keep Hashtags to Your Self(ie)

Actually, don’t even use them for Facebook selfies… I was just trying to do a clever play on words.

To hashtag or not to hashtag on Facebook? That is the question people are still asking. Like the “is a hot dog a sandwich” controversy (it’s not, btw), this important question finally needs to be put to rest.

Hashtags are for Twitter and Instagram, not Facebook.

Though Twitter initially rejected the idea of hashtags, hashtags became commonplace a few years into the social network’s founding. World topics like protests in Egypt, forest fires in San Diego, and 2009 election protests in Iran helped hashtags become common practice when crafting tweets or when discovering useful information and updates from others. One of the most powerful hashtag memories for me was tuning into the Tsunami and Fukushima disaster of 2011 in Japan. I was tuned into late night local news via TV in Seattle, but saw an incredible story developing on Twitter. Hashtags like #Tsunami and #Japan started pouring into my Twitter feed. At one point, a tweet directed me to a live feed from a Japanese news helicopter hovering over the rushing waters from the Tsunami into towns and villages along the coast. These images were amongst the most shocking I’d ever seen, yet I didn’t hear a peep about it coming from my TV. I jumped over to CNN.com, NewYorkTimes.com, and several other news sources online… nada. The news was coming in hot and fast on Twitter, and I was able to get the scoop before most major publications with the help of hashtags.

On a lighter note, Tweets with hashtags double your engagement (or even more!) Why is that? Because hashtags expand the reach of tweets beyond just those who follow you to reach anyone interested in that hashtag, phrase, or topic. So, if you really think you’ve got purr-fect cat content the World can’t live without, try tapping into hashtags like #CatsOfTwitter to connect with other like-minded cat lovers who might also find your pics/vids paw-some. But, before you go hashtag-ing away with all of your 140 characters, it’s also helpful to know that returns start to diminish after using more than two hashtags in a tweet. Also, it’s really a social faux pas and annoying when you see people sharing 5–10 hashtags in a single tweet. (my personal opinion)

Hashtags are also for Instagram. But, unlike Twitter, posts with 11 or more hashtags on Instagram actually receive the highest interaction. Many people trying to grow visibility on their Instagram handles will take advantage of the maximum allowed 30 hashtags (actually, you can utilize 60 hashtag with a little “hack”) by posting a “hashtag block” as a comment on their own post. In this way, they can keep their caption short and sweet, without 30 hashtags bringing in any extra clutter. Personally, I love using hashtags to discover new hiking destinations and do some re-con work on locations I plan to vacation to in the future. That’s how I found out about this amazing place on the #AmalfiCoast, weeks before we had even packed our bags for Italy.

After searching hashtags on Instagram I’ll usually see a photo of an amazing location like this and say to myself “Whoa, I’ve gotta go there.”

So, with all the benefits of hashtag usage on Twitter and Instagram you should totally use them on Facebook too, right? WRONG. Facebook posts with hashtags actually have less interactions. And, there’s a compounding effect: meaning the more hashtags you use, the less interactions your post receives. Have you ever seen a brand or company using a ton of hashtags on a Facebook post? (I have) Does it look authentic? (No, it’s super market-y) Are you likely to trust their content and become a customer? (Probably the opposite). Maybe I’m just an online curmudgeon, but to me hashtags have no place on Facebook.

The one exception? When being ironical or funny. Then hashtag away! (Ex. A friend posts a picture drinking a margarita on the beach while on a break from taking care of his kids and uses hashtag #DadBod… hysterical.)