The humble hashtag emerged as a grassroots invention by Twitter users, for categorizing and sharing tweets, and has since evolved into what has now become a ubiquitous part of the Twitter experience.
They have been used to organize and coordinate protests (Egyptian protesters employed the hashtag #Jan25 during the Arab Spring to promote the mass demonstration that launched the Tahrir Square revolt), to share news and raise awareness during crises (#japan during the Japanese earthquake and tsunami) , and for general news and information sharing (#nptech for Tweets related to nonprofit technology).
The primary purpose of a hashtag is to bring conversations on the same topic into a single thread to make it convenient for information consumers to view and compare ideas, but the use of hashtags on Twitter continues to be an evolving practice. Users of this social media site continue to explore the different applications of hashtags, and collectively control the future of channel tagging on Twitter.
Create a Campaign Hashtag
Create a hashtag especially for your campaign and include it in relevant Tweets. The hashtag helps you connect conversations as users retweet and add their own voice.
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
Who Cares About Your Cause?
Hashtags are a great way to learn more about your audience and understand what topics interest your audience. 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
Tap into Existing Passion
One way to increase awareness for your cause is to launch a campaign that incorporates relevant, current events by joining real-time conversations that are already happening on Twitter.
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.
— National Parks News (@NPCA) November 18, 2012
Connect Supporters with a Hashtag
Hashtags are like campfires. People gather around them to have conversations. They can be used to start a conversation or discussion around a topic or to find other people interested in issues that relate to your cause. Creating a hashtag for your campaign will help you connect followers through shared conversations and reach new audiences.
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) April 24, 2013
Get a Group Discussion Going
The hashtag has become a popular way to organise regular group discussions as Twitter Chats that replicate forums in many respects. Whether you join an existing chat or start your own is really dependent on your objectives. If you are want to raise awareness, increase reach among new audiences then you are better to find an existing active Twitter chat group. If however, you what to discuss something very specific and organise your own small discussion group for people commented to your cause then perhaps creating your own Twitter Chat would be more beneficial but you will have to invest time in promoting the activity and encouraging supporters and community members to participate. There are lots of Twitter Chats you can take part in but you will often find me on #mmchat #socialchat and #SMChat if you want to join a discussion.