Are Facebook hashtags a big fat #failure?

Facebook has been taking cues from Twitter for a while now, introducing trending topics, giving high-profile users verification checkmarks, and most obviously, introducing hashtags.

Hashtags are a prominent feature in a variety of social networks – beyond Twitter, people enjoy using them on Instagram, Vine, and (to a lesser extent) Google+. It was certainly a reasonable gamble on Facebook’s part to attempt to bring the enthusiasm for hashtags from other websites onto its own service, especially since hashtags act as a simple discovery tool. And SEO experts even thought hashtags would have a big impact on business marketing

But alas, Facebook’s hashtags aren’t working. In fact, a study from Facebook analytics firm EdgeRank Checker discovered two pieces of very bad news for Facebook.

According to EdgeRank Checker’s research, Facebook hashtags are actually less likely to make a post go viral. So if you want to get ‘shares’ from friends and followers, putting hashtags in your status updates or photo uploads will be a deterrent to getting eyes on your content. Moreover, using Facebook hashtags also made people less likely to engage with posts. So if you thrive on the short-term positive feedback loop that is Facebook ‘likes’ you’re going to want to avoid hashtagging those wedding pictures and albums of trips to Aruba.

EdgeRank had much better news for Twitter: the hashtags on the microblogging site are still effective engaging tools. If you want to get a re-tweet, you’re still better off using hashtags than skipping them.

EdgeRank doesn’t offer a take on why exactly Facebook’s hashtags are failing so disastrously, but there are a few potential reasons. First, before the introduction of hashtags in June, it looked bad when people posted them on Facebook because it gave the impression that they didn’t know how to use the social network, or that they were being lazy and auto-posting from Twitter.

Second, people don’t use Facebook the same way they use Twitter. If you want to see what your friends are saying about Miley Cyrus’ twerking escapades, you’ll check your News Feed, but if you want to participate in a more rapid-fire public conversation about the VMAs, Twitter is still the place to go. 

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