• May 11, 2015 
    The Do's and Don'ts of Hashtags
    Social media can be a great tool for non-profit organizations to promote their organization and garner volunteers and support. The use of social media resources is uniquely suited for nonprofit marketing because of limited funds and resources, but it is important to have a media strategy in place to help you plan and make the most of your efforts.

    In each newsletter, we plan to share some tips and best practices to assist you in your social media marketing, and highlight affiliates and their use of social media tactics.

    This month we are looking at the use of hashtags on social media platforms. Designated by a number sign (#), the hashtag is paired with a word or phrase and used throughout your posts to make it easier for users to find and follow your marketing campaign. They also serve as a useful tool to streamline your own processes by allowing you to search for people who are following you and helping spread your message.

    Hootsuite (HS), a social media organizational product, published an article entitled The Do’s and Don’ts of How to Use Hashtags in which they talked about some easy tips to help you make the most of your hash tags.
    • Be specific when using hashtags
    • Cater hashtags to the social network you’re using
    • Come up with relevant, unbranded hashtags
    • Got too long or too clever
    • Have more hashtags than words
    • Hashtag everything
    When HS says be specific they mean target a specific audience with your hashtag. An example of being specific:
    • You want to market a new controller to Xbox 360 users. #XboxPlayer is much more specific than #videogamer.
    Each social media network that you use has suggested methods for creating and using hashtags that are unique to that platform. Before extensively using Twitter, it pays to check out their hashtag suggestions. They suggest creating hashtags that have no outright link to your brand. Branded hashtags are useful but scream out self-promotion, an idea that can be a turnoff to social media users. The article uses Herschel Supply Co.’s #welltravelled promotion. Herschel created this hashtag to accompany interesting travel photos featuring the company’s product in use. This idea allowed their users to embrace the tag as their own and provided the company with tons of image content for their media accounts.
    The don’ts are fairly self-explanatory. Long complicated hashtags like #ThisHashTagMightBeCleverButOverlyLongAndDifficultToDigest become more an annoyance than an attractant.

    Also a tweet made like this:
    #OhMy #ThereAre #alot of #HashtaggedWords in #ThisSentence
    Is hard to understand and very annoying. Remember, the main use for a hashtag is to make your content discoverable to a wide audience (discoverable content is content that can be found by search engines). This means if your content is not generically useful to a wide audience or adding new information to the conversation, don’t hashtag the content.
    Now let’s look at a Bright Futures affiliate that is using hashtags well - Bright Futures Harrisonville. They’ve been using #My42 to promote a marketing campaign in which they encouraged followers to give 42 of something to the Bright Futures Harrisonville program, whether it be 42 minutes of their time, donated items or financial support. Since anybody could give any time, talent, or treasure as their 42 this tag works well. Let’s look at the do’s and don’ts of the HS article and how it applies to Bright Futures Harrisonville’s use of #My42.
    Bright Futures Harrisonville Logo  
    • Is specific. Users know exactly what the hashtag means. Also the audience that wants to give 42 can easily identify with and use the tag.
    • Does fit into the hashtag culture of Twitter.
    • Does not identify with Bright Futures specifically, but allows followers to make the tag their own while giving Bright Futures Harrisonville tons of engagement and content to use.
    • Is not overly long or obscure.
    • Is usually the only hashtag in posts utilizing it.
    • Is used for content that exemplifies the ideal of the program.
    So we can see that Bright Futures Harrisonville’s #My42 campaign is using hashtags effectively. Hopefully you have also seen ways that you too can use hashtags. As an added bonus we are providing a link to HS’s 2014 Social Media Glossary, an indispensable tool for those trying to keep up with the jargon of the fast changing world of social media.
    Good luck with those social media plans and may the Hashtag be with you!

    Grant Younger
    Strategic Communications Coordinator
    Bright Futures USA