If you are going to be using social media, particularly Twitter or Instagram, you need to understand and use hashtags. When you place the hashtag (#) in front of a word or group of words, you turn them into a searchable link that allows people to find all the tweets on that topic.
When you have a church event you can encourage people to tweet, post and share about that event by providing a hashtag that everyone can use when posting about that event.
Choosing a Hashtag
Remember that a tweet can only be 139 characters. A photo will take up 23 characters on Twitter. You want to make your hashtag brief enough so that people can share a photo, say something about the event and use the hashtag. Studies show that a six character hashtag performs best.
Note that a short hashtag will likely not be explanatory about the subject. For example, let’s say you are promoting a sermon series on Galatians and your church is St. Mark.
Your hashtag might be #smgal. (Note that hashtags are not case sensitive). Nobody outside the church knows what that means. That is okay. You will promote it. Say “Sermon series this summer at St. Mark on Galatians! Follow #SMGAL”
The purpose of a hashtag is not to explain the event, hashtags are for making it easier to find posts about the event.
I cannot stress enough how important brevity is for a hashtag. If they are too long people will not use them. They are also more likely to misspell them which will render them useless.
Do not use punctuation, symbols or spaces in your hashtags. These will break the hashtag.
Be sure to search your hashtag on Twitter and Instagram first to make sure it is not being used for something else. (Hashtags can also be used on Facebook but are not used much there).
Using Your Hashtag
You can use hashtags for:
- Special Events
- Sermon Series
- Bible Studies
- Tweetchats (see What is a Tweetchat)
- Inviting people to tweet your sermon
- Choose a word from your sermon or the church season and invite people to post an image reflecting that word with a hashtag. Using the word alone may be too general for a hashtag so add the initials of your church to it.
Once you have a hashtag, include it with all your promotional materials about the event, both in print and online.
When you have a hashtag for an event you are letting people know that they are encouraged to share about the event on social media. You are also letting them know that you are open to engaging them in their world.
Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA