Hashtags are simply keywords or phrases you add to your updates with a # sign before them. If people see a hashtag, they can click on it to see more status updates with that same hashtag. You might think of hashtags as keywords highlighting the most important word. Ususally the updates we share are limited to those who are following us, but because hashtags connect people by theme, it enables us to extend our communications to a broader audience who may not be connected to us.
1. Use hashtags to gather your supporters
Hashtags allow you to group content around a topic, so they can be a great way of connecting people who support your cause. You can use hashtags to connect supporters and create a conversation about your campaign
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund (@PPact) needed to raise awareness of legislative actions that were detrimental to their mission. In the interest of curbing these actions, the organization aimed to mobilize their supporters and drive online petition signatures for a birth control initiative. They created the hashtag #bcrefusal to unify all of the petition drive messages.
— Planned Parenthood (@PPact) January 20, 2012
2. Tap into existing passion
Hashtags are a great way to learn more about your audience and understand what topics interest them. A quick hashtag search can be a great way to monitor relevant hashtags and identify your biggest supporters and discover people who care about your cause and the popular issues they are passionate about. You can then use poplar hashtags to connect your cause to the issues that concern them.
Feeding America (@FeedingAmerica), the leading domestic hunger relief charity in the United States, began aligning popular topics like #hunger on Twitter with their existing content and shared links to associated pages on the organization’s website. These Tweets resulted in a 250% boost in average site traffic compared to other Tweets during the same time frame.
— Feeding America (@FeedingAmerica) March 30, 2013
By connecting your communications to hashtags you can connect your organisation to conversations that are already taking place and capture attention. This can be an easy way to increase the reach of your campaign messages.
3. Use an estabished hashtag
Sometimes creating your own hashtag makes sense when, for example, you are promoting an event or a campign, but using a hashtag that is already exists allows you to connect with a an established audience and reach people you might otherwise never reach.
— charity: water (@charitywater) August 14, 2013
Charity:Water use #September for their annual September fundraising campaign. Using a very broad hashtag enables you to reach a wider audience, however you might want to be more targeted with the hashtag you use to reach a sepcific audience or to target particular issues.
When The National Parks Conservation Association (@NPCA) wanted to ensure that national parks remained open, the organization needed to spread the word quickly about the impact of the shutdown and encourage citizens to take action on behalf of national parks. They used the organically trending topic #KeepParksOpenn to increase awareness of their cause and to drive donations and petition signatures. This helped them reach a broader audience and successfully increase awareness of their cause.
4. Connect to breaking news events
Nonprofits are involved in activities that affect the world and so we often find issues that we campaign around or fundraise for in the media. Hashtags will naturally emerge around the event as peopel begin to share stories, offer support and follow news updates. Nonprofits involved in campaigning around the issues they represent or who are providing support should use these hashtags to reach out to the community. You might tweet about your work, hare updates about the support you are providing or even let people know how they can help.
— World Food Programme (@WFP) December 4, 2013
5. Amplify your fundraising event or campaign
Creating a unique hashtag for your event is one of the best ways to connect your supporters. It will help you to monitor the various conversations so that you can participate in discussions with attendees and share your event through a wider audience.
— Arctic Sunrise (@gp_sunrise) December 12, 2013
6. Hashtag TV specials
Most networks today create and promote TV-related hashtags that viewers can use to discuss shows they love. This gives non-profits a powerful opportunity to connect with people who are passionate about what you do. Connecting to viewers using these hashtags provides charities with the opportunity to reach millions of people, who are connected to the causes we represent using media channels with established audiences to reach supporters and share our own stories.
When the popular British soap opera EastEnders decided to run a cervical cancer storyline Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust used Twitter to raise awareness of cervical cancer and also help the public to be more informed about this issue. They were able to provide information to the millions of people watching the show.
How about you?
How have these fundamentals worked for you?