After searching through another round of hashtag data, Socialbakers has found that posting with hashtags on Facebook has become an increasingly popular thing to do. Meanwhile, tweets use hashtags about as often as they did this time last year, and Instagram is the only network where a significant percentage of posts use more than 2 hashtags.
At Socialbakers, we’ve always been curious about hashtags. They make content easy to find, join larger conversations, and allow for audience participation. They’re the interactive tagline, except in the world of social communication you can find out whenever someone makes a joke that ends in “Where’s the beef?” After hearing feedback from our earlier hashtag articles, we wanted to see how we could clarify the topic some.
By examining 12,509 Facebook profiles and 865 Twitter profiles in February 2013 and February 2014, we found that brands on Facebook have expanded their use of hashtags exponentially. Brands’ Twitter profiles, however, are using hashtags at about the same rate they did last year.
This reveals several probable conclusions. First of all, Twitter marketers have had more experience using hashtags on that platform. That there haven’t been major changes in the numbers like on Facebook means that brands on Twitter have figured out the best way to use hashtags over time, and on Twitter’s end, that this aspect of their service is, for now, static.
On Facebook though, the difference is stark. There was a 525% increase in the share of all posts to include hashtagged content.
Facebook only integrated hashtags shortly before our first data sampling was collected, so this illustrates how much the concept has caught on. Keep in mind, though, that this refers to relative numbers – shares of a total number of posts, independent of the number of brands sampled – so the number of hashtagged posts on Twitter could still outstrip the number of hashtagged posts on Facebook.
This means that a concept developed by Twitter, specifically made for a micro-blogging platform reliant on content more so than networking, has been imported with immense success by its rival platform, which is more about networking than content. It is interesting to note that some habits traveled with the hashtag in the move, namely that the number of hashtags per post has held somewhat constant between the two networks.
In previous posts, we made some claims that argued for, let’s call it, ‘hashtagging in moderation,’ both generally and for specific networks. This originally referred to Instagram, which our new data has offered another light on. Instagram, it turns out, is the only one of the three networks with a diverse spread of numbers of hashtags per post.
A thin majority of hashtagged posts use only 1–2 tags, and 10% use 10 or more. This strongly contrasts with Twitter and Facebook’s patterns. This is likely due in part to the difference between the networks’ posting formats.
Twitter’s numbers make the most sense – when you only get 140 characters to play with, every one is at a premium. Having more than 2 hashtags means less space in your tweet for content, @ tags, and links.
But on Facebook, the number of hashtags used per hashtagged post doesn’t quite fit with that logic, since the posting limit is longer than Twitter’s.
While all of this information is good to know, and shows just how far Facebook users have come in integrating the hashtag into that network, it doesn’t say anything about how effective this increase has been.
To try and answer that question, we also gathered data about the number of interactions all the posts issued by these brands gathered during February 2014. Our data showed that on Instagram, posts with 1–2 hashtags received the most interactions, and posts with no hashtags received the next most. On Twitter, posts with 3–4 hashtags received the most interactions, followed by posts with 1–2 hashtags, and none, respectively. But just like we cautioned in our first Instagram report, when posts with no hashtags seemed to perform better than posts with 10 or more, these numbers do not necessarily mean that hashtags decrease engagement over time. Some reasons for this discrepancy are:
You get the point. Based on all we know, hashtags are not only becoming more popular with brand pages on Facebook, and remaining popular on Twitter – there’s probably a good reason why.