#AdvocatingForChange: The Strategic Use of Hashtags in Social Media Advocacy


  • Gregory D. Saxton University at Buffalo, SUNY
  • Jerome N. Niyirora SUNY Polytechnic Institute
  • Chao Guo University of Pennsylvania
  • Richard D. Waters University of San Francisco




e-advocacy, hashtags, health, nonprofits, social media


Social media continues to change how advocacy organizations mobilize, educate, and connect with their constituents. One of the most unique yet understudied tools available on social media platforms is the hashtag. Little research exists on how social work and advocacy organizations use hashtags, much less on how such use can be effective. This study examines the hashtag use by 105 constituent members of the National Health Council, a national US-based patient/health advocacy coalition. The study presents an inductive coding scheme of the types of hashtags employed, analyzes inter-sectoral differences in hashtag usage, and examines the relationship between hashtag use and measures of the effectiveness of social media messages.

Author Biographies

Gregory D. Saxton, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Associate Professor Department of Communication

Jerome N. Niyirora, SUNY Polytechnic Institute

Assistant Professor of Health Information Management, College of Health Sciences and Management

Chao Guo, University of Pennsylvania

Associate Professor of Nonprofit Management, School of Social Policy & Practice

Richard D. Waters, University of San Francisco

Associate Professor, School of Management