Ten years ago, the very concept of hashtags was foreign to all but the most serious computer scientists. Today, they provide an excellent way for people to stay connected and engaged with the topics that interest them most.
If you need to brush up on hashtags, this article is a good place to start. (Don’t worry, we’ll still be here when you get back!)
The cool thing about hashtags is that they work virtually the same way on every social media network, so once you have mastered the concept, you can use them everywhere you are online.
How do hashtags impact your nonprofit? Well, for one, they enable you to take part (and show your “face”) in conversations about particular topics. This visibility can be a key part of growing your social media audience. If your nonprofit focuses on heart disease, for example, you could — when you are on-topic — use hashtags like #heart or more specific ones like #heartdisease or #cardiachealth. Be careful, though — a hashtag like #heart might be TOO general, because there are all kinds of other facets to the word, such as romance and perseverance. Search on every hashtag you use (or thought to use) to see what kind of conversations are taking place with them, and decide whether it would be effective to use them for your purposes.
Another thing to keep in mind is monitoring trending hashtags. Often, these only last for a day or two, but they could enable you to get some attention “in the moment” since everyone is posting them and searching on them. Trending topics are easy to find, with several online tools available, and networks like Twitter prominently displaying both local and national trending hashtags. Just be careful not to wade into waters that are not appropriate for your mission.
Yet another important aspect of hashtags is your ability to create one that never existed before, or hasn’t been posted in a long time. These unique or not-recently-used hashtags are especially useful for campaigns.
To go back to our heart disease example, perhaps your nonprofit has an event coming up called End Heart Disease. In your promotion of this event on social media, consistently use the same hashtag to talk about it. In this case, it could be #endheartdisease2017 (that might be a little long) or something snappier like #EHD17. Now your followers know the official hashtag of the event, and can use it when they post pictures or videos of it, or talk about it. For your donors, volunteers, staff and fans, this hashtag will build community, because so many of them will be following the hashtag and seeing what other people post about the event. Use this hashtag even in your printed materials to encourage people to use that particular hashtag when they are talking about your event.
Perhaps the most recently successful hashtag in the nonprofit world is #GivingTuesday. You should definitely be using that one this month to promote your specific campaign for the big day of giving. But there are many others that can help you grow your social audience, build community, and increase your exposure. The only limits are your imagination — and your research.