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5 ways to use hashtags

By Natalie Bannon

It seems hashtags are everywhere these days, and honestly, they are. What started on Twitter as a way to categorize topics and conversations, is now a very useful tool on multiple social networks, including Instagram, Pinterest, and, yes, even Facebook. So, what is a hashtag? And why should you be using this little pound symbol in every post? Let's get started!

1. Organize
When you simply type the pound symbol in front of a word, phrase or acronym, you've created a hashtag. This makes that word, phrase or acronym a clickable link. For example, many United Methodist members, congregations, conferences and agencies use the hashtag #umc. When you click that hashtag, you can see what others are saying about The United Methodist Church.

2. Connect
And once you click that hashtag, you've opened a world of opportunities to connect with others. Find relevant accounts to like or follow, engage in conversation and build relationships.

3. Research
Interested in a particular topic like outreach or Rethink Church? Want to learn more about what's going on before you plan your own ministry? Explore relevant hashtags to see what's happening. Go to your network's search bar and see what you can find. Be creative. Put yourself in the user's seat. If you were seeking a local ministry, what would you type in the search bar? Also, before using a hashtag, make sure you do a quick search to see how it's being used. You don't want your church or ministry to be associated with a negative hashtag.

4. Promote
Hashtags are also a very simple (and free!) promotional tool for your church or ministry. For example, if your church is raising awareness or funds for Imagine No Malaria, use the hashtag #ImagineNoMalaria. Others interested in Imagine No Malaria will see your tweet or post and hopefully re-tweet or share it. Go deeper. Many major cities have their own hashtags. Say you're in #Chicago. Add that hashtag so people who search your city's hashtag can find your event. Make sure you use only relevant hashtags and be careful not to use too many, which can actually be perceived as spam.

5. Collect
If you're hosting a big event or getting ready for a large-scale outreach, consider creating your own hashtag and promoting it in your marketing materials. Make sure it's unique and keep it simple. Since Twitter has a 140-character limit, shorter hashtags are better. Keep it consistent across all networks. Encourage participants to use your hashtag and then collect their tweets, posts and photos by doing a simple search. For example, when the North Georgia Annual Conference, Action Ministries and Rethink Church teamed up to break the Guinness World Record for the most sandwiches made in an hour to feed hungry children, they created the #sandwichrace hashtag. Several participants posted updates and photos throughout the day.

That's it! Happy hashtagging! Learn more church communication tips at