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BizReport : Social Marketing : September 09, 2013

Hashtags don't increase viral reach or engagement on Facebook

The debate about whether hashtags on Faceobok work continues, and the news isn't good. New research from Edgerank suggests that hashtags on Facebook could actually be detrimental to a brand's viral reach and engagement.

by Helen Leggatt

In July, I covered research from social media analytics firm Simply Measured that found that, while 20% of top brands' Facebook posts now include hashtags, there is no evidence they are influencing engagement. In fact, according to the research, posts with hashtags perform just as well as those without.

New research, this time from Edgerank, delivers worse news for the symbol's use on Facebook. They found that hashtags do not increase the viral reach of content shared on the social network. Viral reach of posts with hashtags have a median viral reach of 0.8% while posts with no hashtags have a viral reach of 1.3%.


The same counterintuitive scenario is true for both Fan engagement and Fan reach. While Facebook posts with hashtags have a median Fan engagement of 0.22%, those without have 0.25%; organic Fan reach with hashtags is 12.47% while those without 13.36%.

Edgerank were obviously flummoxed by their findings, as is evident from their in-depth questioning of the results on their blog post. However, the conclusion reached was that posts with hashtags on Facebook are usually promotional posts and centered around campaigns, and hence are not shared as much by users.

"By nature, campaigns are promotional, therefore more likely to drive less engagement, less clicks, and ultimately less reach," according to Edgerank's blog post.

Hashtags may not be efficient at driving new content discovery and attaining viral status on Facebook, but they do work on Twitter. In a RadiumOne survey earlier this year, over half of Twitter users said they use hashtags on a regular basis.

While often viewed as a promotional tool, the majority of hashtags in use on Twitter were primarily for communicating personal messages and information. Secondary to this use is to follow or search for companies and brands.

Consumers are using hashtags on Twitter to explore content with 41% of survey respondents saying they would click on a hashtag to find out more about a product or brand, found RadiumOne's research.

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: engagement, hashtags, organic reach, social marketing, social network, viral reach

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