BY ANDREW DAVID COX |
#MoravianStar2015, #MoravianStar2016, #MoravianLenten, #MoravianMoms, #FaithLoveHope, #ThrowbackThursday. You’ll notice on the Moravian BCM social media sites, we like to put strings of words like these at the end of posts. What do all of these have in common? By the way they’re written, they’re hashtags. What is a hashtag anyways? Well, here it is straight from the horse’s mouth (Google definitions):
The hashtag is strongly associated with Twitter and reportedly first originated as a social media tool ten years ago on that site. Prior to that, and still for a lot of people, the “#” symbol is known as the “pound sign.” The first hashtag on Twitter was created by social technology expert Chris Messina. According to Hashtags.org, Messina wrote to his followers, asking them what they thought about using the pound symbol to identify specific groups. Hashtags had been previously used in Internet Relay Chats (IRC). Essentially, what hashtags do is they allow a post on social media to be searchable by topic. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they become hyperlinks leading to pages for that respective topic.
As of writing, #NSHvsPIT is trending on Twitter. The hashtag identifies tweets about the National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cup final between the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. A Twitter user could search “Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins” to find tweets on the topic. But on Twitter, posts are limited to 140 characters, meaning most of the content in a searchable tweet can taken up by the full name of the game. Searching “#NSHvsPIT” should bring up only tweets about the game, and often are more engaging tweets and have more interesting content being shared by people who follow hockey. Their tweets don’t have to spell out the full name of the game, because it is identified by the shorter hashtag. By using the hashtag, hockey commentators don’t have to worry about providing full context for every post, because other fans, by looking at the hashtag, will know what they are tweeting about. The hashtag can save creators from having to sacrifice quality or brevity in content when they feel compelled to give context for content.
This handy functionality of the hashtag was used in the #MoravianStar2015 and #MoravianStar2016 social media campaigns, and every social campaign the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) has done since. On a Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram search, if a user searches “Moravian Star 2015,” it’ll bring up all kinds of posts about Moravians, stars, Moravian stars, and the like, because the search is comprised of terms, when separated, are relatively generic and not specific. By stringing the words together without spaces and with a hashtag in front, information about the social media campaign and posts relevant to it are both immediately discoverable. By adding a year to the hashtag, it makes it even more unique, and limits its timeliness. This allows the BCM to find users who purposefully intended to submit content to these campaigns by using the unique hashtag with their posts. Otherwise, we’d have to sort through every other post with Moravians, stars, or Moravian stars and would wonder if someone intended to share the content with us or not.
Some general rules about hashtags:
- A hashtag must be a single word preceded by a pound sign (#) with no spaces
- #FaithLoveHope works, FaithLoveHope# does not work, # Faith Love Hope does not work
- Hashtags are primarily functional on social media, and are not intended for texting or email
- However, you can share in any medium what a designated hashtag is, so people can then use, search, or interact with it on social media
- There are brand-specific hashtags and hashtags everybody uses
- Coca-Cola uses #ShareACoke to identify their brand’s specific campaign, but everyone uses hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday or #MotivationMonday each week to share memories or words/pictures of motivation
- Church or ministry pages should develop their own unique hashtags for their congregants to use, as well as capitalizing on common hashtags to boost engagement
- Always capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag, as #ShareACoke is much easier to read than #shareacoke
- There are no hard or fast rules as to where to place hashtags–some accounts sprinkle them throughout a post and others at the very end of a post (or both)
- Try not to use too many hashtags all the time, especially not on Facebook, as it looks cluttered and tacky… try to stick to around five to ten
- On Instagram, place a double space between your text and your hashtags (if you list them at the bottom), by using a character such as a colon “:” to hold the place of the double space that Instagram would otherwise delete
- Hashtags will not automatically become hyperlinks if they have special characters in them, but they can end with special characters (a period at the end of a hashtag will not break its link)
- Example: #FaithLove&Hope will not link to anything on social media, #FaithLoveHope or #FaithLoveAndHope will
- Posts marked with hashtags typically can not be found by the general public if the account using it posted it with strict privacy settings… for hashtags to be most effective, posts using them generally need to be posted publicly
- Example: If Ruth Burcaw, with strict privacy settings, posted #Moravian on Facebook, I, being friends with her, could see it and click the hashtag and be taken to a page with all public posts with the hashtag or posts by other friends who used it… but people who are not Ruth’s friend could not find her post
Hashtags are a powerful social media tool. If you’re looking to grow your church or ministry’s page and connect to relevant topics and interested people, hashtags are a must! To get people in the door and doing ministry with us, we need to have faith, love, and hope. But to help people be aware there is a door even to begin with, we need to have #FaithLoveHope.
Questions? Comments? Or need assistance with your church’s
communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404
Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew is a driven creative person with established experience and skill in a variety of fields. Experience includes communications, social media management, event coordination, marketing, graphic design, photography, customer service, hospitality, security, writing, cartooning, illustration, fine art, and more! His main passion though is creating visually and emotionally interesting creative content for the Internet.