Just last week, the Hashtag, that funny little pound (#) symbol on your keyboard just celebrated it’s 10th birthday. In case you don’t know what a hashtag is, it is used on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram and is a word or phrase preceded by a pound sign (#). It is used to identify messages on a specific topic. For instance, if someone it talking about the Orange Conference, they might post a quote from a speaker and then use #OC17 so that other people posting about the Orange Conference 2017 can see what they posted.
Here is an example of how it looks on Twitter:
The great thing about hashtags are that once someone clicks on #OC17 they will go and see a whole list of what people are talking about anything in regards to #OC17. That is why, in the day and age of paid ads, hashtags are still a great, organic (meaning FREE) way to reach people and be apart of conversations.
But don’t be confused here, hashtags are not just for Church Communications and Social Media leaders or tweens, teens and millennials. Hashtags are for everyone and I would venture to say that if you want to expand your reach and engage with more people online, properly knowing how to use hashtags can make or break your social media experience. That is why everyone, especially ministers, should understand them and know how to use hashtags effectively.
In order to understand and use hashtags effectively for your ministry, here are some suggestions, in no particular order:
- Use Trending hashtags to connect and engage with people. Do you want to engage with what people are talking about, you need to know what’s trending. Things trend all the time. In fact, just go to Twitter and you will see under search in mobile or to the left side on desktop what is trending on Twitter. As you see the list of things people are talking about you can pick a topic or two and see what people are saying. If you see someone say something interesting that you want to talk about, simply reply to them or even retweet them. Each day something new is trending so keep checking back to see what people are talking about. However, a word of caution, be light and hope to people, don’t fall into traps thus ruining potential ministry opportunities with these people.
- Keep it simple but make it unique. If you are thinking of coming up with a hashtag for your ministry to talk about a sermon series or church event, keep it simple. For instance, if you are staring a series about love, #love may be a very natural one for you to choice. While you may want to use that hashtag, creating one that is unique so that the members of your church can look up that will help them find discussion on the message would be more helpful. For instance, #Love is too general, but my church used #nlccLove as unique as well. That is why if someone saw one of our tweets or posts about #love they could see #nlccLove and look to see what we were talking about in regards to love.
- Keep them short. The shorter you can keep you hashtag the more memorable it will be but also the less likelihood someone will misspell your hashtag. For instance, the Orange Conference keeps their hashtags short. It’s alway #OC (followed by the year). Can you image people always trying to spell out #OrangeConference overtime they want to tweet or post about the conference? Keeping it short will help more people wanting to talk about your topic actually use your hashtag.
- Search the hashtag before you start using it. Hashtags are so common right now so make sure, before you start using one, that it is not being used, or is rarely used. Also, make sure whatever you decide your hashtag to be isn’t being used by another person or group that is pointing to people to something inappropriate or completely against the mission of the Church or you.
- Keep the amount of hashtags you use to a minimum. By that I mean, keep it to 2 hashtags a post. The more you use the more people think your tweet or post is automated post and not really you.
- Don’t use hashtags every time you post. If I’m honest, I tend to hashtag a lot and I have to watch myself here. I tend to want to get discovered in whatever I post so I use hashtags, but if people look at your tweets or posts and all they see is you talking and posting hashtags they will lost interest in actually talking to you. So make sure you tweet or post without hashtags as well.
Searching for or attaching a hashtag to a post or tweet can really help you engage with other people from all over and expand your ministry as you chat with people locally or all over the world. I have found it to be a great great outreach tool. That is why I really believe when posting on Twitter and Instagram specifically it is wise to use them and see how God uses it. For me, personally and in ministry, if it were not for hashtags my reach to people would be extremely limited.
If you have never tried them out, make it a goal to add some hashtags to your post and/or search out specific hashtags to see what kind of conversations you can have with others and what kind of ministry opportunities God opens up for you.
So what do you think? What other tips can you share about how ministers can use hashtags more effectively? Share your thoughts and experiences below or on social media and use the hashtag #ymsidekick to share.