In last week’s post, I looked at the positive ways to use hashtags in your social media posts. This week, we look at the negatives and ways to misuse them in nonprofit marketing.

First, your organization is not an individual. Don’t be swayed to use hashtags as other individuals might — as an ironic comment on the post itself. Hashtags like #JealousMuch #UmmmNo and #winning might seem clever to some, but have no place in nonprofit marketing. At best, they’re irrelevant. At worst, they are excruciating evidence that your organization is trying to seem “contemporary” or “hep” or “with it” (or whatever the kids today are saying).

Secondly, if you’re inventing a hashtag for a particular use, check it out first on every social media platform you can think of. Make sure the same hashtag isn’t already in use elsewhere, for a different purpose. I worked with an organization doing an event related to civil rights martyr Harvey Milk. The first three hashtags I through of were already widely used by the American Dairy Products Association and various public figures named Harvey.

Be wary of hashtags that are easy to misuse. Hashtags can’t contain spaces or punctuation. If you want to encourage the use of #IllStandWithABCOrganization, you’re going to have a number of users put in the missing apostrophe, thereby ruining the hashtag. I’ve seen lots of friends tweet #I’mWithHer, only to have the #I hyperlinked as the searchable hashtag.

Next, never use hashtags in media that don’t support them. On a website or in an email, they have absolutely no use.

Finally, many experts have suggested that using hashtags on Facebook actually suppresses organic reach. Your attempt to broaden your reach with searchable terms may actually keep your existing constituents from seeing your content. At the moment, this is only applicable on Facebook, which uses an algorithm (EdgeRank) to determine what users see. On platforms like Instagram and Twitter, hashtags are fair game…for the moment.

Have another caveat concerning hashtags? Share it in the comments section!