One of the biggest trends that exploded in 2013 was the use of hashtags (#) in social media. While they have been around for years, a record number of individuals, businesses, and organizations are now using them to jumpstart trends. As you’re making plans for series, events, outreach, and branding in 2014, you’ll definitely want to include them in your strategy.

Hashtags are a great way to create buzz and encourage people to share what’s happening at church on their social networks. When their friends and followers curiously click these automatically generated links, it connects them to everything you and other users have posted related to that tag. This gets really neat when users tag event photos, sermon points, and videos from your ministry. Most major social media platforms support hashtags, so encourage your congregation to share everywhere.

Like any other form of Church Media, there are plenty of ways to do hashtags right, but many dangers in doing them wrong. Here are eight do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

1. DO Use An Overall Hashtag For Your Ministry

I would encourage all churches to create an overall tag to use for your ministry. This could be an abbreviation of your name such as #cpchurch for CenterPoint Church or #FBorlando for First Baptist Orlando. Since many churches prefer to be included in posts as their actual username (such as @PiedmontChapel), many will promote a tag that expresses a phrase unique to their ministry. For our church, we chose #GodLovesGreensboro since it’s a key tagline in our marketing strategy.

2. DO Use A Hashtag For Your Series

Hashtags can be extremely beneficial before, during, and after a sermon series. Include a tag that’s unique to the series in all of your promotions to create anticipation. Have users respond to your questions or even ask their own questions related to your series with it. After your series, use your tag to promote sermon audio/video being available online. You could even ask your audience to use the tag as they post photos of how they’re applying your message throughout the week.

3. DO Promote Your Hashtags Everywhere

To get the most out of a tag, you must sell it to your audience. Include it in all of your printed materials, social network posts, and Sunday slides. Pastors, encourage your audience to interact with your messages and promote events with them. Express how it can inspire others to get plugged in to your church. Like many aspects of Sunday morning, if you’ll be excited about it, your congregation will be, too.

4. DO Research Before Using New Hashtags

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when using a hashtag is not doing your research beforehand. Always make sure that your desired tag hasn’t already been used by someone else. I once saw a church conference mistakenly use a tag that was also connected to a spring break beach event. Yikes! Also be sure to ask a few people to proofread your abbreviations to ensure it doesn’t communicate anything other than what you have intended.

5. DON’T Use Hashtags For The Sake of Hashtags

#ThereIsNothingWorseThanReadingATweetLikeThis – Long tags do nothing but make your organization look silly. It’s also important that you don’t throw in random tags just for the sake of using them. Unless you legitimately plan for your hashtag to be used by many users in your church, just leave them out of your posts.

6. *DON’T* Promote Too Many Hashtags

If everything is important, then nothing is important. Too many hashtags will kill the excitement of the significant ones. It would be much more beneficial to have your congregation use one central tag in their social posts than promoting 10 of them every Sunday. The last thing that you want to do is make people sick of them where they won’t use them at all.

7. DON’T Use Hashtags To Communicate Details

#FridayAtEight, #elevenOclock, and #DressCasual not only look silly—they’re details that will be overlooked. People look to hashtags for trends, not instructions. If you’ve got important details that you need to share in your posts, link to a website instead.

8. DON’T Use Symbols Or Punctuation In Your Hashtags

This is a rookie mistake that can ruin everything. Commas, periods, exclamation points, question marks, and apostrophes are out. Forget about asterisks, ampersands, or any other special characters. As a basic precaution, always do a test run of your tag before promoting it on printed and projected materials. I’ve seen too many #John3:16 and #Let’sGo hashtags that simply don’t work.

Do you have any others that you’d add to the list?

6 Comments

  • Jason says:

    Anytime we are having church we us #CTLIVE. On Instagram we use #myinstact (our username is myctchurch). & we use as a genral hashtag #ILoveMyCommunity. Thats our main outreach saying & what we push a lot. Loving on our community through outreach efforts. What are your thougts? Pur church name is CT Church

  • Marshall Allen says:

    DON’T rely on Camel caps to make your hashtag clear ( #CapitalizingTheFirstLetterOfEveryWord) hashtags are not case sensitive and all lowercase versions of your hashtag may communicate unintended words. Make sure your message is clear in all versions.

  • Joshua Riley says:

    I think these principles can even be applied to Youth Ministry. I started as a Youth Pastor 8 months ago and wanted to start incorporating social media more with my kids because of how frequently they used it. So I found a hashtag that was more specific to our community rather than our church. I went with #330Youth (330 is our area code, and I felt that we could almost rebrand the youth group by calling it three-three-o youth). I promoted this idea by giving a Pic of the Week where my kids would submit to either FB or Instagram a picture from one of our weekly services by using #330Youth and if I selected their pic for Pic of the Week they got a free #330Youth T-shirt. This idea has been wildly successful because while they attend youth group each week I show on the projector all the pics they’ve taken with #330Youth and they love seeing themselves on the screen. Couple this idea with a new reward each month for Pic of the Week and I’ve found it to be popular with my teens. But like you said I had to do research into finding a hashtag that could be specific for my youth group. Love this site and all you do to help Pastors/Youth Pastors throughout the world.

  • Noah Kimmel says:

    At my church we did a series called #TrendingNow, except we forgot to look up the actually hashtag. It was connected to young girls showing off bikinis. Whoops

  • Collin says:

    I love #’s 6,7, & 8 but I’d argue #5. Sometimes people like long hastags if they are clever, but you’re reason for not doing them is not much more than just your opinion. #1,2, & 3 are also questionable. Well, what I mean is, it depends on why you are using hashtags. Sure, let’s all make hashtags for our church, but the main point of a hashtag is to make your SM content findable. People have to actually search it out to find it. Millions of people all over the world are going to search #picoftheday every single day, but pretty much nobody except current church members would type in #cpchurch unless they had a reason to. So for example, Joshua Riley (the yp poster) should probably consider making #330 one of the major hashtags he uses, because people in that area code may actually search for that hashtag. By changing it to #330youth, he would shrink considerably the amount of people who would potentially find his SM posts on the web.

  • Sarah says:

    Found this article helpful, then realized you’re a neighbor (I’m a pastor in Winston-Salem). Yay ministry in the Triad! Now if I can just get my people to grasp #5, or the concept of hashtags in general…

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