Are You Armed with Good Hashtags that Boost Your Organization's Social Media?
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.
Popular versus Focused Hashtags
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 relevanceThis 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.
Sample Overused and Good Hashtags for Not-for-Profits
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.
- #--poli: When the double dashes in this hashtag are replaced with the short-form for your desired region (e.g., "onpoli" for "Ontario"), you have a hashtag intended to discuss area-specific politics. This hashtag is very important to not-for-profits engaged in politically charged advocacy or to discuss politics or legal issues affecting the organization, its members, or their interests. Popularity varies by how political and expansive the region, over all, but tends to be high.
- #assnchat: Meaning "association chat," this is one of the most frequently used association sector hashtags, as it is intended for general discussion. As such, its use is incredibly broad and common. Searching through posts using it will result in a mix of every possible subject, so finding something specific is difficult.
- #assnprofs: Meaning "association professionals," this hashtag is more focused than the previous. (Note that several times I have seen adult industry professionals appear under this hashtag based -- you should be able to figure out why with another look at it -- so be aware of this duplicate meaning when you use it for your organization. You may not want that sort of audience crossover.)
- #associations: Another of the most common hashtags for associations, this one is very focused on the sector but is used for every possible related topic. It is best used as a supplementary hashtag to help boost the value of those that are more focused on what you are talking about in the moment.
- #boardofdirectors: This relevant hashtag is popular because it is shared with corporate social media interests. This doesn't often matter, though, as it is specific enough that much of the accompanying content from one sector will often crossover to the other without much problem. Boards in the not-for-profit sector have things they can learn from corporate boards, and vise versa.
- #governance: Very popular among consultants dealing with top-level management and operational policies in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, this is another hashtag where the crossover between these worlds can be beneficial.
- #membership: Another useful-but-broadly-popular hashtag, this one is a great add-on for refining a post's meaning, but on its own can be vague. "Membership" means something very specific to not-for-profits, but covers a wide range of commercial- and entertainment-related applications, too.
- #memberengagement: Although the "member" component of this hashtag is broad in its reach, the "engagement" portion helps focus its meaning. Regardless of the type of member, the hashtag's focus on discussions about engaging them often crosses over between sectors.
- #millennials: Incredibly broad in its scope, this hashtag should be combined with others when not-for-profits want to speak to this increasingly relevant generation. Given how many associations have boards and other top positions aging-out of the sector, this hashtag is becoming essential for getting the attention of the up-and-comers.
- #nfp: Meaning "not-for-profit," this is understandably an often-used hashtag. It can tap into an incredibly wide audience, but should be coupled with other, more discerning hashtags to give it focus.
- #nfptech: "Meaning "not-for-profit technology," this hashtag deals with how technology is being used and adapted for the sector's use. Although not used extensively, it provides a focus that keeps most related content on-topic. It is often used to discuss how technology is adapted to communicate in the ways most often used by sector members.
- #nfptalk: Meaning "not-for-profit talk," although not as popular as #assnchat, this hashtag is for organizing general discussions related to the sector. The reduced traffic can make it a better option than #assnchat for some discussions--you'll have to figure this out on a case-by-case basis, though.
- #notforprofit: Not quite as popular as #nfp, this hashtag serves a similar function and caters to the same audience and users.
- #volunteers and #volunteer: Given how much the not-for-profit sector relies on volunteers to get things done, these should seem obvious hashtags to use. Although they can be used for associations, charities and other non-profits employ them most often. As such, the nature of volunteerism that associations and the like are talking about can result in unexpected, off-base reactions from an audience that misunderstands the content because of their charity-based perspective.
- #young professional and #yp: As with the #millennial hashtag, both of these are important for tapping into a younger audience that is rising up in the not-for-profit sector into roles of increasing importance. As you would expect, both hashtags are also heavily used by for-profit interests, which won't matter much so long as your content focuses on the "young professional" aspect of its message.
Good Hashtags for Your Organization
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.
What are your hashtag suggestions? Leave them in the comments!
Beyond the ins and outs of effective social media use, your association's website should be optimized for the best performance and user experience possible. This includes ensuring optimum security for you and your membership. Attend our Cyber-Security for Associations webinar to discover if your organization's privacy and security is up to par.
In his book, Online PR & Social Media: For Experts, Authors, Consultants and Speakers, Randall M. Craig provides additional, invaluable advice regarding what your association can do to make social media work for your organization. In the digital age, your organization is constantly competing for attention in social media. Don't let your message go unheard because you've fallen behind on social media trends, techniques, and tools.