One of the funnest articles I’ve read on the now famous pound symbol was called “Ode to the #Hashtag: A tribute to the most ubiquitous symbol of our digital times.” It was written back in 2013 by Andrew Miller on Medium, but is every bit as relevant today as it was back then. Especially this line:

“People don’t know how to use you,
But dump you everywhere just in case,
Brands all rush to be your friend,
To justify their journeys into cyberspace.”

That is so true.

When you see #hashtagsthatstringtogetherentiresentences, well that’s a sure clue someone doesn’t how to use a hashtag. Another #sign (see what I did there?) that someone doesn’t know how to use a hashtag? They add an absurd amount of them at the end of their sentence, often loosely related to the post. #knowwhatImean? #Truth #RT #Absurd #GoTeamDerek!

But if you’re like me, you might not use hashtags at all.

Actually I do. But I didn’t for a long time because I didn’t see the point. I had no reason to use hashtags because I didn’t understand how to use them or how they could be helpful in my ministry.

If that’s you, here are three ways you can leverage the #hashtag in your ministry…

1. To Find cool and helpful stuff

A hashtag is a great way to organize a conversation. When enough people talk about the same thing, and use the same hashtag, Twitter picks up that conversation and it starts to “trend.”

Because Twitter is such a powerful content curating platform, it’s also a great place for you to get ideas and find resources.

For example, if you’ve found an awesome tweet related to something you’re interested in, you can click the hashtag in the tweet (assuming they used an effective hashtag) and find other related tweets and content.

2. Join a Conversation

Because hashtags group and organize conversations that are taking place clear across the twittersphere and puts them into a single thread, you can watch, follow and engage in conversations that matter to you.

This is great for your ministry if you know what to follow. For example, if you follow the hashtag #Chsocm (which stands for “Church Social Media”), you’ll be able to watch, learn and even chime in on “content and conversation about social media for church and faith” every Tuesday evening at 9pm Eastern.

Some other hashtags you might find useful include: #cmconnect and #kidmin (for children’s ministry); #CollegeMin, #Church and #Churches; #Pastor; #SocialChurch; #Chsocm; #ChurchTech.

3. Start a Campaign

Campaigns are fun ways to get your church involved in its social media activity.

A campaign is when you create your own hashtag for whatever purpose you’re aiming for. For example, a few years back one church ran an Instagram hashtag campaign involving the head of a popular Football player during the NFL Super Bowl (the details escape me at the moment).

The small town where the church was situated is obsessed with football. That sport consumes every part of their culture.

So rather than fight against the trend of Super Bowl Sunday, the church encouraged its members to host football parties across the town, take pictures of a cutout head of a key quarterback player and then post the picture to Twitter and Instagram in funny places (like floating on a balloon) with a hashtag the church made up for the event (I don’t remember what it was now).

This fun campaign allowed the church to show love to the community through their hospitality and it also connected them online in an engaging way.

And the funniest picture was given a reward.

But how could they determine which picture was the funnest? With all the pictures posted all over Twitter and Instagram, how could they compile them into one place?

You guessed it. By simply clicking on the hashtag they created for their campaign.

When they did that all of the tweets and grams came together into a single thread for each platform respectively. This way they could quickly and easily see all of the activity from their campaign in one place. Simply by controlling their online campaign with a #Hashtag.

Conclusion

So now you have three great ways to leverage hashtags in your ministry. There are more ways of course, and there are ways to misuse hashtags too (for example, I’d suggest you not use more than two or three hashtags per post, that they be relevant to your post and that they not be obscure unless you’ve created it for a campaign).

What other ways have you used hashtags in your ministry? Let me know in the comments section below.