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Back in June, Facebook decided to follow in the footsteps of Twitter and implemented hashtags into news feeds and posts. Like with other social media outlets, each hashtag is clickable and delivers the user to a search page for that term, in the hopes of making content and topic discovery easier.
An aspect of hashtags that makes them so successful for brands, at least on Twitter, is their viral nature. People can be encouraged to tweet about topics using a particular hashtag, which can then drum up even more support as more people use the same hashtag. A good example of this, at least in Australia, is '#auspol', which is being used frequently for discussion surrounding the upcoming 2013 federal election.
However recent research has revealed that Facebook hashtags are completely useless at generating viral reach, hype and exposure. Facebook analytical service EdgeRank Checker tracked 35,000 posts by 500 pages on the social network, coming to the conclusion that posts with hashtags actually have less viral reach than those without. EdgeRank tallied the data in a number of ways, including relating it to the number of fans a page has, and the frequency of hashtag usage, but the results were still the same.
On the other hand, EdgeRank looked into the effect of hashtags on retweet rates on Twitter, and concluded that tweets that include a hashtag are twice as likely to be retweeted than those without. "Over 70 percent of the brands experienced an increase in RT's when using a hashtag versus not using one", the site stated in their blog post on the matter.
To try and explain the apparent uselessness of Facebook hashtags, EdgeRank concluded that people simply aren't clicking on them, and companies aren't using them correctly. Brands tend to use the same hashtag across all of their promotional material on the one campaign. EdgeRank says that "by nature, campaigns are promotional, therefore more likely to drive less engagement, less clicks, and ultimately less Reach."