The 4 Problems with Facebook Hashtags

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I’m excited about Facebook hashtags. There are very real opportunities for marketers to use hashtags, assuming Facebook doesn’t screw it up.

Facebook hashtags, in their current form, are flawed. Like everything Facebook rolls out, the hashtag is an incomplete product. It’s far from perfect.

Hopefully Facebook realizes the most important problems with hashtags and addresses them quickly. Otherwise, they’re dead in the water.

Here are the four things that Facebook needs to fix fast, or hashtags will never catch on.

Problem 1: Filtering

I’ve gotta admit that it’s not entirely clear how Facebook orders results in hashtag feeds. And that’s an immediate problem.

It appears that the items at the top are usually most recent. But they aren’t always. And the further you scroll down — apparently once you scroll past the most recent day — you’re more likely to run into posts out of order.

Here’s one of several examples I’ve seen when viewing the #FacebookMarketing results:

facebook hashtags filtering The 4 Problems with Facebook Hashtags

As you can see, the post at the top was 23 hours ago and the next item is nine hours ago. There are actually many examples of this deeper into the results.

Is Facebook filtering content in the same way they filter my News Feed? If so, this completely defeats the purpose when using hashtags for discovery. Facebook will bury or possibly hide some content from the feed results, depending on the user looking at them.

This presents a problem beyond discovery. If real-time results are filtered, Facebook hashtags are worthless for breaking news and following sporting events.

If the results aren’t in order for a sporting event, they lack context for the reader. It becomes a confusing mess and eliminates one of the biggest reasons hashtags are so interesting on Twitter.

Problem 2: Spam

Look at these fun results when you follow the #NBAFinals hashtag:

facebook hashtags spam The 4 Problems with Facebook Hashtags

Dozens and dozens of these irrelevant spam posts.

Of course, spam isn’t a problem unique to Facebook hashtags. They exist on Twitter, too. But the relevant posts on Twitter far outnumber the spammy ones, retaining the value.

Hashtags will never catch on if following them doesn’t provide value. Either Facebook needs to do something to limit the spam (I assume the spam reporting function still applies here) or Facebook needs to make a push to increase relevant use of them.

Problem 3: Mobile

If you see a hashtag on your mobile device, it’s just ugly, plain text.

facebook hashtags mobile The 4 Problems with Facebook Hashtags

Click it. Nothing.

More than half of users access Facebook from their mobile device. More than half of Facebook users can’t click a hashtag.

I understand that this is what Facebook does. They roll everything out in stages. Mobile is often last.

But this is getting ridiculous. You can’t get traction on a new feature if mobile continues to be an afterthought.

Facebook keeps telling us that mobile is a priority. But rollouts like this one make me wonder just how true that is.

Problem 4: No Reader

I use hashtags in my posts. But I almost never follow hashtag feeds.

This is a problem. If everyone is using hashtags without anyone following the feeds, it completely defeats the purpose of using a hashtag in the first place.

A big reason for this is that Facebook has not integrated an easy way to do follow hashtags into the interface.

An easy solution would be to add the ability to favorite a hashtag feed, similar to how you can favorite an interest list. One has to assume this will be part of the new Facebook News Feed.

Other Problems?

What other problems do you see with Facebook hashtags? Do you think they’ll eventually catch on and be valuable?

Let me know in the comments below!3

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About Jon Loomer

Jon Loomer is a digital marketing consultant with a unique perspective on social media. He was introduced to Facebook in 2007 while with the NBA (back before Pages) and has been using Facebook for business ever since. Stay in touch by liking his Facebook Page (Jon Loomer Digital).

  • Umair Qureshi

    How about if Facebook also introduce Trending Topic on the basis of most popular Hashtag of the day. similar to twitter?

    • Mig Bravo

      I like how Google Plus does it. The What’s Hot section just picks up trending topics without having to use a hashtag if you didn’t want. I wrote about Chad Johnson’s trial a few weeks back when it was hot, and without a hashtag, it lumped it under #ChadJohnson

      • Umair Qureshi

        Yeh.. At Facebook! Hashtags are visible to only those who are using or searching a particular hashtag. The popular idea will die if there is no such section of trending topics as a random person would never discover the most talked about topic.

  • Mig Bravo

    I’d like to see a small row under statuses where you can put the hashtag, rather than including them in the statuses with a limit for 2 or 3 hashtags. Visually, hashtags look horrible and spammy, but I like the idea of them.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      I agree completely, Mig! I hate hashtags in the middle of posts. I love the idea for categorizing content, so why not add a hashtag — kind of like you tag blog posts?

    • http://www.thehomeschooltree.com/ Robin

      I love this idea, Mig! :)

  • Mushki

    With people’s privacy settings a lot of the hashtags won’t be viewable for the public. So that messes with the general conversation surrounding a hashtag. This can be a problem to the hashtag function, but at least it keeps people’s privacy somewhat intact. :)

  • msaffer

    I completely agree with all of these points! In the past most people have used hashtags on Facebook as a joke or in the completely wrong manner. And I couldn’t agree more with the fact that newer status updates are buried underneath older ones. Facebook has a lot of cleaning up to do before hashtags are effective!

  • David A Haines

    Hey Jon, great post. I want to comment on point #1 about ordering of Hashtags. What I’ve found is it does filter in chronological order, but the posts that YOU personally use for the hashtags will always appear at the top. I’m assuming this is because Facebook wants you to remember your own contribution to the conversation. That way any comments, replies, likes and such are brought to your attention.

    Again, Great Post!

  • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Spot on, as usual Jon.

    My understanding regarding the listsing is that Facebook classifies hashtags based on how popular they are (not how popular is your specific post with that hashtag) and then applies this to your own level of influence.

    E.g.: a very popular topic posted by someone not very influencial, will make that persons post display lower in the list. And a non popular topic posted by someone influencial will have a smiliar effect – although not so bad (since there is not much “hashtag competition”) Most times you need to have both values in order to show at the top.

    Of course, this is just my own theory after analysing (too) many results…

    Spam (as well as hashtag overuse) is an issue since Facebook character limit for posts is far greater than Twitter. Not having a limitation in the number of characters (or hashtags per post) allows people to post endless – and sometimes non related – topics.

    Regarding mobile… see? I told you so some months ago! :))) (I can’t remember the post, but I did it.. ) I said that Facebook strategy for mobile is really bad or non-existing, as most times they don’t roll out new features for mobiles, and when they do it it is already too late or full of bugs… This time is not different.

  • http://www.solo-e.com/blog Terri Z

    Facebook doesn’t seem to “index” hashtags in comments, which is a little strange (meaning the comment with the hashtag, or the post with the comment that has the hashtag, doesn’t show up in the hashtag results.) If this is Facebook’s intent, then they ought to not enable hashtags in comments…i.e. they shouldn’t show up as clickable as you write them.

    BTW I know this because I have a unique hashtag, #TerriZSoloCEO, that I use when I comment on other people’s pages as my page (which is a brand that isn’t just me.) So people know it’s me, speaking on behalf of the company. But if I can’t find those comments later…seems to defeat the purpose.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      I think it actually makes sense that these comments would not be indexed in the results and that they’d work. The opportunity for spam is far too high and it also just doesn’t make sense to include comments in that feed — or add a post that may not otherwise fit that hashtag within the feed. But it still links so that you can send someone to that feed in the comments.

      So the purpose of using a hashtag in comments in this case isn’t to categorize your content but to easily send someone to those results.

      • http://www.solo-e.com/blog Terri Z

        I’m not sure I agree that there is any more chance for hashtag abuse in comments vs. posts (actually if comment hashtags aren’t indexed…spammers will probably focus *more* on posts), but setting that aside – hashtags on Twitter allow you to see the entire conversation. On Facebook then, the hashtag just lets you find posts that start conversations, not the entire conversation. I guess that might be a feature, intentional or not – you see what starts a conversation then click to see more.

        I’m still bummed that comments aren’t indexed…I was hoping it would help me find posts where I had commented as my page, to see if someone else had replied. I can’t find anywhere else that I am notified of that! (Or maybe no one has commented after me. Yet ;)

  • venkyiyer58

    I would say the spam problem is the most serious of the four listed in this post. If Jon’s examples are typical, the FB hashtag system is riddled with spammers.

  • http://packageyourgenius.com/ Michele Welch

    “An easy solution would be to add the ability to favorite a hashtag feed, similar to how you can favorite an interest list. ” Now THAT would be neat. Great suggestion Jon. ;-)

  • http://blog.buildexpertbrand.com/ Marcel Litvák Feliks

    Hashtags are perfect for research. You do not need to follow them. Use them occasionally.

  • Renee Baribeau

    My hashtags do not work..That is the real problem..I like yours above..

  • robolist

    I was wondering if you might be aware of a bug with hashtags, because I am noticing that some of my old (a couple of weeks old) hashtags are not showing in the stream anymore. Does Facebook kill out old posts in the stream? I have been running a segment topic of posts on one of pages for the past couple of years, and since the birth of FB hashtags i thought it would be cool to create a channel by tagging all of my new posts within this segment. So this morning when I posted one more on this topic, i clicked on the hashtag to see if there are any other pages using it, i found only one post – the one I had just posted. The other 5-6 that I had posted over the past couple of weeks are gone.

    Any ideas why this might be?

    Cheers

    Rob

    • chfuji

      I’ve noticed the same thing too. I’ve been meaning to share music video playlist with personal notes and I was using the hashtags to collect them. Only thing is, just like you saw, apparently the old posts don’t show up anymore.

      • robolist

        I’m hoping this is just a bug otherwise I really don’t see the point of creating unique hashtags. Has @jonloomer:disqus noticed anything like this?

  • Jan Zając

    Hi, are you familiar with any studies concerning use of FB hashtags in marketing and their efficiency?
    At Sotrender we’ve just released an analysis regarding UK brands ( http://blog.sotrender.com/2013/07/how-the-uk-brands-use-facebook-hashtags/ ). This actually refers to some issues you raised (e.g. number of # in a status or niche vs popular).
    Now would like to move on and see how do the other aspects and other countries work.

  • https://www.odesk.com/o/profiles/users/_~~6822e5762fbbd55e/ Filip Galetic

    At this stage hashtags on Facebook are simply a gimmick and gateway to spam increase. Since you can only search public posts with hashtags anyway, it really does not make any difference from searching a term or phrase with or without # symbol before it. This has been possible for years now already on Facebook and has been pretty useless as the results were always very limited. The result will be even less authentic communication by brands on Facebook who will simply load their posts with hashtags with solely the goal of being seen by as many people as possible, instead of focusing on telling an actual story with the post.

  • jPush

    I have created my own hashtag #jPush since 10 days i m tagging post but i cant find any post while searching I have tagged at lease 30 posts how to activate ?

    • jPush

      Is it compulsory to add tag in main post if I add in replay will it be search-able ?

  • ulrikeR

    When I add a hashtag to one of my posts, FB just doesn’t let me post. – Nothing happens. When I remove the hashtag, the post goes on FB immediately. What’s going on? What am I doing wrong?

    • ScottyGoodBoy

      I have the same problem. I can’t get it to post the majority of the time. Remove the hashtag and it will post. Samething with names if other pages in a post.. Only does this on my page feed. Have no problems on my personal feed.

  • Trish

    The hashtag search is too simplified. It doesn’t allow for language and location filter amongst others. Personally, if you’re going to introduce a new feature then at least make it useful. Some basic wouldn’t be too much to ask for?

  • Chris Conway

    If you post twice in a short time using the same hashtag, the second post doesn’t even show up.

  • Jeff Warnke

    this need to be deleted get a life – im a real facebook admin and how we run are server is are business thanks – #getalife

  • Hani Akkila

    Well, I completely agree with you about Facebook hashtags problems, the other thing which is really bothering me that I notice I CAN NOT SEE MY POST HASHTAGS FROM OTHER FACEBOOK USERS, by the way I was selecting (Public) in post privacy !!

  • rjenny

    Great synopsis. I’m fairly conversant in the IT world, but not such a facebook users. So I read a bit, used it to market a friends new business and with a few simple tests through one day, suddenly found all of these amazing omissions. So, great promise, but not enough meat yet. More robustness to come. Classic case of hurry to roll-out before ready.

  • Dharma

    To me, it only shows recent posts. I’m posting on my wall with a perticular hash tag, but when I go the URL, it only gives recent posts and not the all…..

    • Isabel

      I am having the same problem!

      • Terry Mills

        same here. I wonder if they’re filtering out content. Say when someone posts something about being “pro-2nd” on my hashtag, “#seventeenseventysix” it’s promptly deleted. My MRA tag, “#theyarenotweak” seems to be selective, as well.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/?tab=wX#109016704019682085950/about/ Gavin Hudson

    The problem I’m having is that although I know there are posts with a certain hashtag because my friends and I have used it, nothing shows up in the feed when I search for that hashtag.

    • jamie h

      same!

    • Veronika Fuetterer

      same

    • Umer Dar

      same here & it must be fixed sooner.

    • MESaraP

      Yes! It appears that only “recent” posting including hashtags will show up in search results. WTF good is that?

    • Nicolas Sebastiani

      Same here … My hashtags are showing up but not other people (even if I see them usin the hashtag in my feed) WTF?!?

    • Isabel

      When I research about my hashtag, here is what shows me at the bottom: “There are no more recent posts to show right now”. How come they ONLY show recent posts? What do they consider recent? I want to see all the posts with that Hashtag.

  • http://nitishdhiman.com/ Nitish Dhiman

    Even i did not see yet that Facebook Hashtag makes any impact.

  • Archie

    Posts using #hashtags on Facebook seem to expire in search. We share posts from users who hashtag our company name on our page, so we are constantly looking at that #ourcompanyname search results, and finding content there. But when we go back a week later, the older posts are gone.

  • Elaine Jackson

    this site has a look and feel of Hub Spot

  • Bing Sheng

    some people use hashtag in every word of a sentence…..absolutely annoying….==”
    example like:
    #what #a #great #day

  • modelcircle

    do the hashtags still work, last few days they show empty pages as results

  • Mark

    They don’t work for me at all, just a blank pages!!!

  • pixeltest

    Graph search api type post not supporting location based search

  • http://www.trackfusionbiz.com/ Josh Charlton Cornelius

    My #minimeistah hashtags dissappear, I don’t know what I’d need them for then. #cornelj #joshcharltoncornelius

  • Havoc

    Same here. I will create a tag, use it in several posts. Come back to it a few weeks later, and the posts are gone. The posts seem to disappear after some time has passed. That or I’m using it wrong. That is the biggest issue I have seen technically. But there are so many reasons why Hashtags are kind of pointless on FB anyway. Thanks for the help, great stuff.

  • jamie h

    i use hashtags to reference a recurring theme in some of my posts but when i click the hashtag, NOTHING shows up, Facebook tells me there are “no more recent posts to show”. WTF?

  • Eric

    Facebook’s Hashtags is totally a shit function. I created a hashtag called “”phimedia大小事” and add it in a lot of my posts, but I can’t find my “OLD” posts by clicking the hashtag!!!

  • 廖韋豪

    Facebook’s Hashtags is totally a shit function. I created a hashtag called “”phimedia大小事” and add it in a lot of my posts, but I can’t find my “OLD” posts by clicking the hashtag!!!

  • http://www.decordova.ca/ Enrique

    I think Facebook is deliberately filtering business posts with hashtags. Here is an example #decordovaphotography
    When searching this hashtag under my business or my personal page, posts appear.
    When searching under other personal profiles that are not fans of my page posts DO NOT appear.
    But when searching under other business pages not under my own profile posts appear.

    So what I am thinking is Facebook puts filters that makes business page post hashtags visible to other business pages but not to personal pages.

    • Alfred

      This seems to be the case!

  • Monther

    I make hashtag in my fans page but it is not shown when I search it in another profile? anybody can help me

  • StephySteph

    Most of the time my posts aren’t showing up on the hastag feed. They want you to boost the damn post because they feel they are providing you a service by “delivering” your content to Facebook users. I dislike Facebook more and more every day.

  • Johk

    We have a facebook page to showcase
    projects etc. Can you use a hashtag to ‘filter’ projects? For example we might
    have several post for a project – call it project 1.

    Can I then use a hastag say #project 1
    for all the post regarding project1? When a user clicks on this hashtag they
    will see all our posts re project 1?

    Thanks,
    J

  • Lousy Fellow

    Hashtags on Facebook are utterly broken. What’s the point if the posts under the same hash don’t appear after a day or even after another post? I just wanted to create a easy hub for my friends to find/follow my videos, but it just doesn’t work.
    And from what I can gather in this blog, this is an year old issue, and I doubt it will ever be fixed. So far, hashtags on FB are just more stupidity for people to spam on every post about how their cat just took a shit.

    #seriouslyfacebooksucksmajorballsbythewayheresmycatsfurball

  • CAS3000

    I’m having the same problem with nothing returning on my wedding hashtag b/c there aren’t any new posts. Any updated on how to see all vs. recent

  • Terry Mills

    my hashtags #theyarenotweak and #seventeenseventysix only show my most recent posts. Is facebook deleting posts that it doesn’t like?

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