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Rethinking the Role of Hashtags on Facebook

In the ever-evolving landscape of social media marketing, strategies are often built on a foundation of best practices and common knowledge. However, what if some of these assumptions are not as effective as they used to be? This question prompted us to conduct a new research project, aimed at unravelling the efficacy of hashtags on Facebook—a platform where the necessity of hashtags has been a topic of debate for years.

We asked ourselves “Do hashtags increase metrics on Facebook posts?” and set out to get some answers. 

Here was our plan…

To examine the impact of hashtags on reach and engagement metrics, we conducted multivariate testing on 1 of our client’s Facebook page. Our analysis focused on five key metrics, including reach, impressions, likes, comments, and shares. For this purpose, we designed 8 Facebook posts, 4 with hashtags and 4 without, which were distributed during peak activity hours between September and October. 

By adopting this methodical approach, we aimed to obtain a comprehensive understanding of how hashtags affect the performance of Facebook posts. After a week we reviewed the results of each post to determine the effectiveness of hashtags on Facebook.

So, what were the results?

Contrary to prevailing beliefs, we found posts devoid of hashtags exhibited slightly higher reach and engagement metrics compared to those with hashtags. 

This finding challenges the conventional belief surrounding the role of hashtags in enhancing post visibility and user interaction on social media platforms. 

Further analysis also revealed that neither the timing of posts nor the number of hashtags used significantly influenced the outcomes. This suggests that other factors, perhaps beyond the scope of traditional strategies, might be at play in determining Facebook post performance. Check out the results below. 

Posts with Hashtags After 1 week

Post Hashtags used Reach Likes Comments Shares
Post #1 3 34/37 impressions 1 0 0
Post #2 4 41/41 impressions 1 0 0
Post #3 1 36/37 impressions 2 0 0
Post #4 2 46 impressions 2 0 0

These posts, despite varying in the number of hashtags used, exhibited similar engagement levels characterised by minimal likes and no comments or shares. Additionally, their reach did not surpass the reach of posts without hashtags, suggesting that hashtags may not significantly enhance post visibility or engagement on Facebook.

Posts without Hashtags After 1 week

Post Hashtags used Reach Likes Comments Shares
Post #5 0 42 3 0 0
Post #6 0 55 3 0 0
Post #7 0 51 2 0 0
Post #8 0 89 6 2 0

These findings suggest a noteworthy trend: posts without hashtags consistently outperformed those with hashtags in terms of reach and engagement. Despite the absence of explicit categorisation through hashtags, these posts managed to attract more attention and interaction from the audience.

Here’s what we think

The data from this project reaffirms the suspicion that hashtags may not be as effective as previously assumed on Facebook. Posts without hashtags consistently exhibited higher reach and engagement metrics, challenging the conventional thought that hashtags enhance post visibility and user interaction. 

This initial analysis lays the groundwork for further exploration into the intricate dynamics of Facebook’s algorithm and user behaviour. The increased success of posts without hashtags in terms of reach and engagement metrics highlights a nuanced relationship between content strategies and platform algorithms.

This underscores the importance of data-driven decision-making in social media marketing! As we navigate the complexities of digital communication, it’s imperative to question assumptions and adapt strategies based on empirical evidence.

However, it’s crucial to understand that a social media strategy does not have a universal solution. Therefore, we encourage you to continuously explore and evaluate your own data to identify the most effective strategies for engaging your target audience and expanding your overall reach. 

What do you think we should put to the test next? Send us a DM on Instagram and let us know, or follow us to stay up to date with our next experiment.

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