#Nonprofits and Hashtags: Are You Using Them Correctly?

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Imagine for a moment explaining what a hashtag is to someone who is part of an older generation. You know, the ones who know it as the number sign, the framework for a game of tic-tac-toe, and as a prompt in those pesky automated phone calls. It makes total sense they’d be confused that this symbol has become a social media phenomenon.

Hashtags seem like a simple concept to millennials. But with 35% of social media users being over the age of 65, some are left scratching their heads about how to use them effectively.

There’s a disconnect between understanding what a hashtag is and using it correctly. Come with me on a journey as I break down the use-case of a hashtag! I’ll also throw in frequently used hashtags your #nonprofit should be using.

What is a hashtag and why should you add it to social posts?

Simply put, a hashtag is a way to index a keyword or topic of interest. Once you place a # in front of a word, it becomes discoverable by other users on that social platform. It’s important to note that if your page is private, your hashtag won’t aggregate with posts sharing the same hashtag.

You’ve most likely heard the term “trending” before. Once a hashtag is used enough, it becomes a “trending topic.” Here’s where this gets tricky: just because your keyword is trending on your page, it doesn’t mean it’s trending for everyone. Why? Your social algorithm is based on several factors (location, connections, and interests—just to name a few). For example, as a nonprofit, you’re probably not going to see sports or beauty tips trending.

Now that you know what a hashtag is, why is it imperative to add them to your social posts? Glad you asked!

Did you know that posts with hashtags result in an increase in likes?

A 70% increase to be exact! That’s a huge amount of visibility your mission could be getting.

While this sounds exciting, be cautious about overusing hashtags. Using 30+ hashtags is considered spam and won’t get eyes on your post. What’s the ideal number? It’ll vary by platform.

Facebook: 1-2 hashtags per post seem to work best. If used appropriately, they’ll work. When I say appropriate, I mean not every FB post requires a hashtag. Using them specifically for industry conferences and events seems to work best.

Instagram: Hashtags truly took off on this platform! When I think of hashtags, I immediately think of Instagram. People commonly use anywhere between 5-30 hashtags. Opinions seem to vary on this platform, but research shows that just nine, well-researched hashtags work best.

Twitter: Back to where it all began! With Twitter’s limited 280-character count, this isn’t the place to go overboard with hashtags. Twitter’s Dos and Don’ts claims 1-2 relevant hashtags is all you need.

LinkedIn: Hashtags are new to this platform as of 2018. Since LinkedIn is more formal, hashtags need to remain work appropriate. #Don’t #do #this #on #LinkedIn! Limit your use of hashtags here as well. 1-5 should be fine.

Pro tip: Using 3 generic hashtags without a strategy won’t work either. You want to stand out from the noise, not get lost in it.

Check out #nonprofit vs. #nonprofitorg. The difference between these numbers is staggering. Take some time. Do your research. Have a hashtag strategy.

Hashtags commonly used in the #nonprofit community

New to using hashtags? Consider this your cheat sheet. I’ve compiled popular general industry hashtags you can use or simply look through.

General nonprofit hashtags:

#Fundraising – While its use seems obvious, adding this widely-used hashtag to the majority of your Twitter and Instagram posts will help increase visibility of your mission.

#Philanthropy – This hashtag is best used when posting general news about your nonprofit.

#Nptech – Short for nonprofit technology, this hashtag keeps nonprofits in the know about new, innovative ways that technology can help boost their mission. #Nptech trends well on Twitter!

#Donorlove – One of our absolute favorite topics! Use this hashtag (and look through others) to gather great ideas on how to better love and appreciate your donors. Want to learn about #donorlove from one of its most passionate evangelists? Check out this webinar with John Lepp from Agents of Good!

#GivingTuesday – Held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday is one of the biggest fundraising days of the year, but I probably don’t need to tell you that. While it seems that every organization will use this hashtag the day of, don’t fret. Your campaign should start well ahead of time, and you can apply the hashtag then. Get ahead of the game. We can help you save some time with these handy email templates! 

#Volunteering – Spotlight your volunteers! They do some amazing work for your organization. Bringing attention to them by using this hashtag can potentially help you gain more volunteers!

#DoGood – Aligned with #volunteering, the best time to apply this hashtag is when showcasing the important work your organization does.

#Donation – Look at this hashtag as a call-to-action. When looking for support, this hashtag is your best bet to create a sense of urgency.

#Nonprofitorg – Like the example images above, it’s important when using generalized hashtags that you research how often it’s used. The difference between being placed among 2 million #nonprofit hashtags vs. 18,000 #nonprofitorg hashtags can mean everything for visibility.

#Crowdfunding – For use during your campaign to gain support. #Crowdfunding is a trending topic on Twitter. Don’t get lost in the noise! Combine this hashtag with more personalized hashtags relating to your campaign.

Conference hashtags:

These are SO much fun to follow on Twitter. Speaker sessions at each are usually live-tweeted by attendees. It’s like you’re there, too!

#AFPICON – Association of Fundraising Professionals’ annual conference

#NTC – Nonprofit Technology Conference

#P2PForum– Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum’s annual conference

Conclusion

Even though the hashtag started in 2007 on Twitter, there’s still confusion about how to use it and why it’s used. I’ve heard “My grandma won’t know what a hashtag is” all the way to “The more hashtags you use on a post means more visibility!”  Now that you’re a hashtag pro, tell your friends, parents, and grandparents! Hashtags are here to stay. At least for now.

This small symbol is a big key to connecting a community of #fundraising professionals. Hash out the details to knowing the proper use of hashtags. Understanding their use could improve your next social campaign!

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