Lost in the sea of black dresses as I watched the Golden Globe awards, I was struck by the way in which a hashtag, #MeToo, made the long overdue conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace a reality.
Since the first #MeToo hashtag appeared in October, millions of women have shared their stories after decades of not only being subjected to sexist comments and actions, but being forced into silence out of fear of retribution. The woman credited for starting the #MeToo movement, Girls for Gender Equity director Tarana Burke, even appeared on the black carpet at the Golden Globes with nominee Michelle Williams. Both were asked about their important work, and not about who designed their dresses. Imagine that!
Hashtags haven’t been around for very long. Up until 2007, # was only thought of as a pound sign, the symbol representing a number. According to Offerpop, the first hashtags were proposed for use on Twitter in August of 2007. Two years later, Twitter took the key step of automatically linking anything preceded by #. News events like the October 2007 wildfires in southern California and the Arab Spring of 2011 showed the power of hashtags to spread messages quickly.
Today hashtags are a key tool for anyone who works in the world of communications, where both money and time are resources that must be used strategically.
What makes some hashtags count more than others?
Use the spirit, not the name of your brand – If it’s too specific, it comes across as too self-serving and limits your audience. However, your hashtag should reflect the heart of who you are and what you do. REI’s popular #optoutside hashtag doesn’t mention the company by name, but evokes the quality they are known for.
Encourage engagement – One of the reasons why #metoo works so well is that it inspires people to not only like it, but to become a part of it by sharing their own stories.
Keep it short – A hashtag like #Letmetellyoumylifestorythroughmyhashtag takes up valuable twitter real estate and is hard to remember. The shorter and pithier the hashtag, the more likely people will be to recall and use it.
Make your words do something – Certain words are bigger nonprofit marketing winners than others. According to Nonprofit Hub, the top five words that got the best reach in hashtags were “volunteer,”“causes,”“donate,”,“change,” and “activism”. They are mostly active words about doing something, which is the goal of any nonprofit.
Good luck using these tips to create a hashtag that can spark awareness and interest in the work you are doing, help you raise money and ultimately lead to the change you seek.