The media was quick to say that Facebook’s addition of hashtags was a complete failure. The social media giant “borrowed” the use of the symbol from competitor Twitter, and the backlash was immediate and harsh.
But those headlines didn’t look at the real data. While the public at large has been slow to integrate hashtags into everyday posts, businesses are including hashtags in nearly 20% of all posts.
The research also shows that posts with hashtags in them have not yet started to receive more engagement than posts without them, further confirming that the public has been slow to adapt to the change on Facebook.
Just like with Twitter, Facebook users will slowly become accustomed to using hashtags to search for posts. Use of the hashtag has taken off on other networks like Instagram and Vine already, and there is no reason why it won’t do the same on Facebook.
Even if the general public never increases its own use of the hashtag, businesses will continue to take advantage of the indexing and search purposes the symbol brings them. The point of a hashtag isn’t just to receive more engagement directly (although it does help); the main goal is to boost the amount of eyeballs that will come across the post.
Where hashtags seem to have the most effectiveness is with mobile social network users. A study by RadiumOne discovered that 70% of consumers favor using hashtags on mobile networks and that over half of those mobile users felt motivated to explore new content when hashtags were present.
That study found that 58% of social network users as a whole use hashtags, a number that can only go up with Facebook’s integration of the function. It also found that 43% of users think hashtags are useful, and 34% of users searched for content using hashtags.
The survey found another way that businesses can utilize hashtags for maximum effectiveness: 51% of respondents would share hashtags more often if they knew advertisers awarded discounts for sharing product based hashtags.
Smart businesses have already started to take advantage of the function. American Express is creating media buzz for its #PassionProject campaign by using the hashtag across all social networks. By using one focused hashtag for the entire campaign, the company has seen six times the engagement on posts using the #PassionProject tag than all other posts.
Other effective ways to use hashtags can be a focused tag for seasonal products or campaigns, “Newsjacking” popular topics to increase engagement, running contests or promotions under one hashtag, or utilizing a creative talent to make funny or inspired posts on already trending topics. A good example is Oreo’s brilliant social media strategy during the Super Bowl power outage.
However your business uses hashtags, it’s time to extend that strategy to Facebook. Even in the early days of the function, studies have shown that utilizing hashtags won’t hurt posts and, if used correctly, can significantly boost engagement on certain posts, driving business your way.
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