When it comes to good hashtags your not-for-profit should be using in its social media, do you stick with a few that have been around forever or do you look to branch out? How do you choose which to use? Do you use several you think are universally appropriate with every post or do you conduct some research to get more specific?
When it comes to using hashtags in social media, people can easily fall into the habit of making them up on the spot or using ones they are aware of even if their common use isn't appropriate. But why do so if you're unlikely to get the intended results from using hashtags?
Hashtags have become more than a means of organizing and accessing opinions, topics, and common interests by a shared thread. They have become a means of communicating emphasis and ideas in and of themselves. They are a vehicle of instant memes, sarcasm, and underscoring meaning. This secondary, evolving use means hashtags that largely represent a certain type of information now appears in unrelated posts. So, how can your organization resist this trend towards repurposing hashtags? How can you better serve your not-for-profit social media efforts by maintaining your hashtag focus?
Do some research and compile a list of hashtags your organization expects to use regularly based on its agenda and content releases. This research will help you be certain your choices fit. Keep your list up to date, and continue to add to it. Perhaps most important of all, learn how to use hashtags strategically rather than based solely on popularity.
A common mistake with hashtags is using one for no other reason than it is popular and trending at the moment. Oh, sure, it has absolutely nothing to do with your content, but who cares if it has a lot of people looking at it, right?
The problem with this approach is that the people who will end up looking at the content attached to your hashtag will not see any relevance. This means this traffic won't follow through with your call to action or otherwise engage with your content. And don't forget how brutal people can be on social media. If people think you have abused a hashtag just to get some traffic to your social media, they can leave scathing comments that will not reflect well on your organization.
Even when a favourite hashtag is relevant to your content, you have to ask yourself why it is popular and what the chances are of your post getting lost among all the others using it. You may think this isn't a problem because you have other hashtags in play, but what about social media that limits the number of available characters? And studies have shown that you cannot afford to waste hashtags even when there are enough characters to do so. In other words, there is such a thing as wasting opportunities with the wrong hashtag.
Instead of always targeting the most popular hashtags that will get you the broadest possible exposure, consider less popular hashtags with a similar meaning but a tighter focus on your primary audience. You may not get the same reach or impressions as you would with the more popular hashtags, but better engagement will likely result thanks to a higher level of interest from who did see it.
There are some hashtags common to the not-for-profit sector you should be aware of, listed below. While some are very focused and subject-specific, others are general catchalls that many (myself included) often fall back on when at a loss for more appropriate choices. Decide for yourself which of the following are good hashtags and which are overused for your organization's needs.
I have provided you with some general hashtags you may be able to use, but those are for the not-for-profit sector overall. You can do a bit of hashtag research to see what works for specific associations (like yours) and circumstances. There are some tools you can use to do this research, although most of them have a price tag. You can also start with a keyword research tool, such as Google Adwords' Keyword Planner, to find popular keywords for a topic and next determine if they have any hashtag value using hashtag tools like Hashtagify or Hashatit.
Once you've researched some good hashtags that suit your organization's needs, keep them in an on-going list. Continue looking as your needs change and new topics arise, adding more hashtags while removing those that are no longer used enough to be of worth. Also, be aware of how many hashtags you are using -- it makes a difference!