How to Use Hashtags

Once you understand how hashtags work, you can start using them yourself in tweets.

There are two main routes to go down when using hashtags:

1) Turning key words in your tweet into hashtags, picking the words that would most likely be searched. (Try not to use more than three hashtags in a tweet)

For example:

“Everyone is invited to Church this Sunday morning where we’ll be talking about Jesus”

Think about which particular words in the sentence might be the ones people will search. Words like is, to and this are definitely out. Possibly everyone, morning or talking but these are fairly vague words and wouldn’t bring up any useful results. Church and Jesus on the other hand are words people might actually be looking for:

“Everyone is invited to #Church this Sunday morning where we’ll be talking about #Jesus”

2) Create a new hashtag which is then used to group specific tweets together. This may be for an event, a campaign or just a regular feature on Twitter such as a podcast or weekly video.

For example:

“Everyone is invited to Church this Sunday morning where we’ll be starting a series of talks about Luke #Luketalks16”

This type of hashtag is generally put before or after a sentence (unless of course you’re talking about the hashtag!)

Creating a Hashtag
When choosing a hashtag, always do a quick search for it before you start using it. It’s okay to use one that has been used before but check to see when the last time someone used your chosen hashtag.  If it’s clear it’s still being used regularly you’ll need to pick something else. If it hasn’t been used in a while you’re good to go.

As a hashtag has no spaces in between words, always make sure the combined words don’t spell out anything else (especially something rude).  This has caused social media campaigns to backfire in the past, so don’t let it happen to you!

Finally, make it as easy as possible to remember and spell. You don’t want people to be misspelling it as you then missing all those tweets because you’re only searching for the correct spelling. You’ll also need to keep it as short as possible, as the length of the hashtag will cut into the 140 characters you have to tweet. The longer your hashtag is, the less characters people will have to tweet with.

Top Tip:  When creating a hashtag for for an event or project at your church, make sure everyone knows what it is by including it in tweets and other social media channels, on your website and even on service sheets.

Tracking Hashtags
Use Tweetdeck or a similar resource to keep track of the people using the hashtag in tweets. There’s no point having one if you’re not able to easily see who else is using it. Keep track of any regular hashtags you use and try not to create too many at a time as it will confuse people and they won’t know what’s what.

Engaging with other hashtags
It’s always a great idea to try and get involved with the current trending hashtags, as it will help you get noticed, especially if your contribution to the trending hashtag is popular (be funny!).  Always make sure you understand where the hashtag has originated from or why people are using the hashtag in the first place. When the hashtag #WhyIStayed started to trend, one pizza company started using it, only for it to backfire as the hashtag was about domestic violence.

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Quick Digital Wins

While some of the things you need to do to bring your church into the 21st century might take time and planning there are some things which are a little bit easier to tick off the to-do list and will help step up your game. Not only will the short list below help improve your church’s digital presence but it could also help disprove some people’s misconceptions about what church is like and what they expect a church to do and offer:

Offer Free Wi-Fi in the Church
While this is not always easy, depending on how rural your church is, setting up free internet in the church is a great idea. Not only will it benefit the community but will mean your church can do so much more using it. Read this story from a church in Norwich Diocese to see how successful it was for them. Once it’s set up, don’t forget to put signs up to let people know how to access it (and also ensure you’ve amended the filtering settings so any children using it can’t access anything they shouldn’t).

Encourage people to tweet/keep their phones on during the service
It’s a really simple thing. Instead of asking people to turn their phones off before the service, ask them to not only keep their phones on but encourage them to tweet throughout the service. By doing this, your service will reach a few more people and could be the first steps for some people in wanting to know more.

Hold social media classes
The problem with social media is that there’s always a divide between those who know how to use and it and those who don’t. If you’re wanting your church to embrace social media, you might end up leaving those people behind. To counteract that, why not set up a few informal classes and get those who know how to use it to sit down with those who don’t, to teach them a thing or two. (Why not make it into a cafe style event) Hopefully they’ll gain a better understanding of the church’s social media strategy and you might even get a few more Twitter followers in the process.

Make it clear you’re on social media
This might seem obvious but don’t forget to tell people and remind people that your church is on social media. Places such as your website, email signatures and your church notice board are great places to display any logos for social networks your church is on. You can also include details in any e-newsletters or magazines you produce, the service sheet and front of church projection. Don’t forget to tell people in conversations and in any notices you do during the service (having free wi-fi in the church means you can encourage people to follow your social media accounts there and then!)

Offer Skype
Got a baptism or wedding couple with a family member unable to make the service? Why not offer for them to watch the event via Skype? All you need is a laptop which has a webcam set up at the front (and of course that internet again!). It’s a great extra service to offer which is often greatly appreciated.

Keep your ACNY page up to date
When was the last time you updated your www.achurchnearyou.com page? Every Church of England church has one and it can be one of the first places people encounter your church. If the information is incorrect or out of date you’re doing yourself a disservice. Even if you check it every two or three months, it will give the people who want to learn more about your church a better chance to see the real you. Not only should you keep the information up to date but makes sure you’re including as much information as possible to be as helpful as possible.

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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