Recently Facebook followed Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and Tumblr in adding hashtags to status updates. The early indicators have them labeled as a flop that can actually discourage viral behavior. But there are too few stats yet to bear this out. The same study by EdgeRank from July shows that the adoption rate has been low, just over 20% of Facebook posts. The study didn’t check who was using hashtags on Facebook, but it‘s probably more those using the social medium for marketing and less friends using them in daily conversation or fundraising through them. By contrast, 58% of those on Twitter use hashtags and 41% click on hashtags to learn more about brands. The latest stats from social scientist Dan Zarrella shows that tweets with hashtags are 55% more likely to be retweeted.
With the confusion, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about whether hashtags actually increase fundraising. No one has tracked data from Facebook to validate it yet, but on the other social mediums we’d have to give that a resounding yes, as you’ll see in the great example below.
To date, the #ftk hashtag has been used almost 100,000 times with celebrities like Alyssa Milano as well as Kim and Khloe Kardashian regularly tweeting it.
This article will show you hashtag best practices that can increase donations, raise more awareness for your organization and give you a powerful tool to unite communication around your cause, around an event or around a campaign. And yes, we’d recommend you use them on Facebook too. Incidentally, much of the data in this post focuses on Twitter, since hashtags have been around there longer and Twitter statistics are so public and searchable.
Er, what’s a #hashtag?
Hashtags popped up on Twitter about six years ago. The addition of the hash mark before a word was created by Twitter users as a way to organize the chaos of tweets. Later, Twitter formally adopted hashtags. So now when you tap on one you get a complete chronology of tweets using that tag. You’ll commonly see the hashtag of #news that signifies the tweet is a news item or you’ll see TweetChats that use a hashtag to create a conversation around something. Since hashtags have been adopted by most social media channels, they have become an important part of how people communicate online.
Everyone is hashing it out.
The adoption rate of hashtags on social mediums continues to rise rapidly and not just by a specific age group or gender. A recent survey from RadiumOne shows that hashtags are becoming part of our daily communication. Of those surveyed:
- 75% use hashtags on mobile, 29% on desktop
- 71% of hashtag users are women
- 60% of hashtag users are over 35
It would be easy to assume that hashtags are used mostly by Millennials, but the stats show the 35-55+ age range to be the most dominant.
What hashtags can do for your organization.
Hashtags have quickly become a way to catalog a topic in social media. They have many benefits for a nonprofit. They:
- Make searches easier Tags are in effect keywords, the basis of any web search.
- Let you grow the conversation The bigger the conversation, the more likely it will be noticed. When a Twitter hashtag is massively tweeted over a short period of time, it can become a Trending Topic, which attracts even more attention.
- Introduce you to new supporters If you use a hashtag related to an illness (like #cancer) those who support the cause through other organizations are more likely to find you as well.
- Increase the focus of the conversation Hashtags help confine the conversation to the topic, blocking out the noise.
- Help you track the conversation better If you create a hashtag for an event or campaign, it’s simple to do a search to see how successful your conversation is.
When to join a hashtag and when to create one.
There are two strategies to take towards hashtags: use an existing one or create your own. You would do these for very different purposes.
Join a hashtag. There are thousands of existing hashtags that people use to search for content they’re interested in. So if your organization is related to the cause of saving animals, including an appropriate hashtag in your updates makes you part of an existing conversation and puts you in front of supporters you’re yet to meet. According to Topsy the#pets hashtag has been used 533,000 times on Twitter and #animals has been used 432,000 times. When you want to get your message in front of potentially new supporters: the more popular the hashtag, the more people will see it. When you search a hashtag on Topsy, you’ll find related hashtag recommendations as well.
Your organization can use these hashtags and so can your supporters. The #help hashtag is a useful one that has been used over a million times on Twitter and is a good bet for socially active supporters to land an extra donation or two, though it hasn’t been used exclusively for giving. The #charity hashtag (with 347,000 uses) and #nonprofit (with 261,000 uses) can help steer cause supporters to your organization. Another useful hashtags is#CharityTuesday. This was created for tweeting on Tuesdays about the good your organization is doing. It has been tweeted 129,000 times and clicked by those specifically looking for nonprofits.
Create your own hashtag. There’s an entirely different reason for creating your own hashtag. It’s to help organize the conversation around your nonprofit or around one of your events or campaigns. Your own hashtag gives supporters and others an easy way to follow the buzz. When someone reading the update taps on the hashtag, they see the entire conversation. For events or campaigns, it’s common that there will be a lot of recent activity including the hashtag. The popularity of the hashtag is intriguing enough that many will want to find out more.
Note that hashtags aren’t official, so you can just choose an appropriate word, add a # in front and start using it. It’s best to keep hashtags short to make them easy to type on mobile. It’s also a good idea to use only one hashtag per update or your message can become cluttered.
Making your hashtag mean something.
What really makes hashtags successful is when they’re adopted by your supporters. As an example: DonorDrive client Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals turned their rally cry “For The Kids” into the hashtag #ftk that is wildly popular among their Dance Marathon events. It’s regularly used by student participants to unite the conversation of the 150 Dance Marathons on college campuses across the county. To date, the hashtag has been used almost 100,000 times with celebrities like Alyssa Milano as well as Kim and Khloe Kardashian regularly tweeting it. Hashtracking.com shows that the tag has very high retweet rate at 50%. It also has a strong reach with 771 people on average seeing it each time the hashtag is tweeted. The supporters of Dance Marathon have given #ftk so much play that it’s become an accepted acronym, according toInternetSlang.com.
Can you put a value on a hashtag?
For Dance Marathon, it contributes to the $10 million+ they raise annually. In addition to these stats from Twitter, #ftk has been used with hundreds of Vine videos (in the short time they’ve been in existence) and with over 50,000 photos on Instagram. And yes, #ftk is one of the first nonprofit hastags to take hold on Facebook.
As usage becomes more universal, the power of a hashtag is destined to grow. The conversation is quickly changing from “What’s a hashtag?” to “What’s your hashtag?”