If you’ve heard of #GivingTuesday, chances are you know a little bit about hashtags. But maybe you’re not entirely certain how they work or why you should make them work for your nonprofit.
Hashtags have only really been around since 2007 when a developer at Twitter casually tossed out that the pound symbol (#) could be used to help organize the chaos that was Twitter back then.
Since then, hashtags have exploded and are all over the internet–from Facebook to Pinterest and beyond.
The real question is: can you tame a hashtag and employ it to work for your nonprofit, or are they wild beasts with minds of their own?
A hashtag is essentially an easy way to create a link on social media. It’s the best way to find out who’s talking about the same things that you are–and likewise, to create buzz around a topic that you’d like people to be talking about.
You can create a hashtag by placing a pound symbol, also now known as a “hashtag” before a word or phrase that relates to what you’re talking about. A great example, again, is #GivingTuesday. Another well-known example in the nonprofit sector is #SM4NP (Social Media for Nonprofits).
Note: there are no spaces or punctuation in a hashtag.
All variations of numbers and letters are acceptable, though. Just be sure that when you’re coming up with your hashtag that it doesn’t read as something else when smooshed together.
For instance, after Margaret Thatcher died, #nowthachersdead was a trending hashtag, but people mistook the hashtag to indicate that Cher had died. “Now that Cher’s dead,” was read rather than “Now Thatcher’s dead.” Whoops!
While hashtags originated on Twitter, they became such useful little tools that they were then adopted by almost every other social media site on the web.
Now you can find hashtags on:
Hashtags act slightly differently on every site, but overall, their main function is to help organize the internet in the easiest, most sensible way.
It’s actually really easy to register a hashtag.
Simply visit a hashtag registry website, like Twubs, and type in your desired hashtag.
The site will then inform you that your hashtag is either “taken” or “available,” and if your hashtag is available, you can fill out a short survey describing what your hashtag is about.
For instance, if you’re an animal shelter called Pups ‘R’ Us, and you’re hosting an adoption party, you can visit Twubs to try to register the hashtag #PRUadoptionparty. If that hashtag is available, you can let everyone on the internet know all about your adoption party plans.
Although you can register a hashtag, you can never truly “own” that hashtag in any legal sense.
The best way to make a hashtag yours is:
As long as your nonprofit and its affiliates are the ones dominating the conversation thread attached to a hashtag, it won’t matter if a couple of trolls sneak in and steal it every now and then.
For events specifically, hashtags are a great way to get people talking about your event.
They’re also the perfect way to gather every bit of the conversation around your event in one little area.
Post-event, hashtags are also a super fun way to check in and see how much your donors and volunteers enjoyed themselves. If you encourage participants to #YourEvent after every picture they take or status they make, you’ll have an automatically generated internet scrapbook of your festivities! How cool is that?
Beyond just events, creating and registering a hashtag just for your nonprofit can help organize your nonprofit in a whole new dimension.
Having your own hashtag makes it infinitely easier for potential donors and members to learn all about you.
In just a couple of clicks, your personal hashtag can help donors find:
Bonus: if your hashtag is registered with Twub, your donors can add to the conversation and boost your nonprofit’s signal that much more!
Now that you’re proficient in #hashtagging, you can begin to brainstorm your own hashtags to help your nonprofit stand out while also fitting perfectly into the conversation.
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