Hashtags are words preceeded by the pound or "hash" symbol: #. When used in posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms, they allow your messages to be searched and grouped by the topic in the hashtag.
"I see a lot of rescue groups and animal shelters using hashtags on Twitter," said social media consultant Christie Keith. "They're usually something like #rescuedogs, which is great for getting the attention of other rescuers or the relatively few people who might search for a pet in that manner. But tags like that won't help you find new adopters, the large number of people who aren't involved in shelter and rescue issues, but would provide great homes."
Keith recommends thinking about an individual pet you want to find a home for. "What type of home would work best for that pet?" she said. "What interests and activities would that pet's ideal adopter likely have?"
Let's say you're looking for a home for an active young mixed breed dog who would do well with someone involved in hiking, biking, running and similar outdoor activities. "Get on Twitter and start searching for topics involving marathons, races -- including fundraising races -- hiking, national parks, running, fitness and so on," she suggested.
Those posts are likely to have hashtags in them. Click on a hashtag that sounds promising, and see if there's an active, recent conversation going on in the results.
If there is, Keith says, "Consider ways to tag your Tweets to be part of that conversation in a natural, organic way that will bring your active dog to their attention, without feeling intrusive or spammy."
For example, there are active conversations on Twitter using the hashtags #runningbuddy and #runchat. You could post a Tweet like this:
Everyone who clicks on any of those hashtags has a chance to see your Tweet. "Because it's respectful of the ongoing conversation, and because you're advocating for a good cause, this approach shouldn't come across as spammy," Keith says. "And because you're likely the only person talking about pet adoption in that conversation, your message will stand out."