Facebook’s on-again, off-again relationship with hashtags seems to have taken another down turn, with the company announcing that hashtag topics in groups, which were added in 2019, will be depreciated next month.
As you can see in this screenshot, posted by Radu Onescu, group managers are now being notified that the Group Topics option is going away.
Facebook has provided a full explainer in its Help Center:
“Topics in Facebook groups are going away soon. This means that admins won’t be able to add hashtags to other people’s posts or manage the list of group hashtags. However, anyone can still add hashtags to their own group posts, and selecting the hashtag will show other Facebook posts that use that hashtag.”
So it’s not a huge step, it just lessens group admins’ ability to categorize different discussions in the app, which had initially been seen as a means to better sort group conversations.
Clearly, this wasn’t a popular option - which makes sense, as it requires additional admin workload in categorizing each post correctly. The original idea was that admins would allocate a range of defined topics for the group, and members would then be able to use those tags for navigation within each community. But it seems that group members either aren’t using them, or admins aren’t bothering – which once again underlines the confusing relationship with hashtags on Facebook itself.
At different times, Facebook has pushed hashtag usage as a means to better categorize discussions, but then they seem to fade out due to lack of user interest. Hashtags have always been a habitual element on Twitter and Instagram, but have never really caught on on Facebook, and while Facebook itself could definitely use the additional topic markers, it seems that inconsistent application by users has made it an unreliable option.
You can still use hashtags on Facebook – tap on a tag and it’ll take you to a display of other posts that have applied the same – but due to privacy restrictions, reach limits, and various other factors, they’re just not as effective as a discovery tool.
In terms of general advice, as to whether marketers should use hashtags on Facebook or not, there’s no definitive evidence that we’ve seen which suggests that they drive any reach boost in the app. You would have to experiment to see what works best for you, and your audience, but there’s nothing to suggest that you should be adding tags necessarily, with this latest update once again underlining the fact that hashtags are not a major part of the Facebook user experience.
But maybe, for your community, they work. It’s all down to individual usage, and maybe your group is already using relevant hashtags that will help sort the relevant discussions, and better enable users to find the topics of most interest to them.
But group topics, defined by admins will soon be gone.
Facebook says that starting April 3rd, admins will no longer be able to add topics to someone else’s group post, while from May 3rd, admins will no longer be able to download topics that they’ve added to other people’s group posts.