Hashtags Give Great Visibility to a Greater Cause

by Jason Mollica on October 4, 2010

By Jason Mollica

By now, we have all witnessed just how powerful social media can be.  Facebook and Twitter are no longer just places you go to keep up with friends.  Social networks are used for marketing, sales and public relations purposes.  They are also used to spread the word for social good.

We are seeing Twitter used by organizations to make an impact on local, national and global situations more frequently.  For example, to raise awareness during the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Twitter users put #haiti or #haitiquake after their updates.

According to CauseGlobal.com, hundreds of tweets per minute poured into Twitter’s #haiti hashtag feed.  In turn, this helped the Red Cross’ relief effort to gather donations via text message.

In September, “Stand Up To Cancer” used #SU2C to aid in bringing attention not just to the live, one-hour telethon, but help draw people to a cause – beating cancer.  Once the fundraiser was off air, celebrities continued to tweet messages using the hashtag.  Pledges topped $80 million.

So, what exactly is the hashtag? Twitter says the network’s community came up with the idea as a way to group tweets into a category.  This helps users follow a topic without interference from their regular feed. For most hashtags within tweets, you will see a link to a site where you can donate to a cause.

How can you use the hashtag to your advantage? Look at what the Seattle, Washington-based Homeward Pet Adoption Center recently did to celebrate their 20th anniversary.  They partnered with PawPawty, an organization that helps animals across the world through Twitter fundraisers. PawPawty is also a monthly Twitter event that raises funds for animal rescue organizations worldwide.

The two-hour “tweet-up” event on Sept. 26 was held at a local restaurant and via Twitter.  For the Seattle fundraiser, Twitter participants could follow the #PawLove hashtag and donate to the charity by clicking on Homeward Pet’s online service.  The goal of the event was to raise $1 million.

Becky Kikukawa, founder of the MattieDog Foundation, helped to put together the fundraiser. “Twitter is a great way to help get the word out about a social event,” she said.  Thanks to gracious donations from individuals and companies, the goal was met.

One of the foundation’s core missions creates and promotes the combination of social media and animal advocacy.

“Social media is an invaluable pathway to get your message out to large groups of individuals,” Kikukawa added. “Individuals respond to those groups who are honest, have integrity and are truly sincere with their brand.”

Kikukawa’s next event? She is using retweeting to get the word out about animals that are up for adoption.

The power to raise awareness and dollars is now, literally, in your hands.