What is this # Thing and How Do I Use It?
Hashtags have permeated popular culture over the last several years, so much so that Jimmy Fallon is making skits about it on late night with pop stars and your mom just sent you a text today that said, #missyouwhydontyoucallanymore.
But even now, hashtags remain largely misunderstood by the masses. Most often, they are used to add tone or humor to a tweet, and while they may accomplish just that, there is no substance to the hashtag outside of that particular message. When used properly, a hashtag can be a powerful communication tool and a doorway to information. For the more social media-savvy adventurers out there, hashtags have become a shortcut to navigating the oftentimes treacherous terrain of internet search engines.
The modern hashtag as we know it was born on Twitter over seven years ago. It was created as a way to group a word or series of words into a searchable link. For example, typing the hashtag “#bentgrass” into the Twitter search bar will yield every tweet containing that hashtag, leading you to literally hundreds of tweets from folks talking about their bentgrass turf. Searches can also be narrowed by searching for multiple hashtags, such as tweets containing both #bentgrass and #poa which may prove helpful if you are researching why your membership should embrace a bentgrass greens conversion.
Here are a few tips to best utilize hashtags in your communications:
Use hashtags that are relevant to the topic you are discussing. For example, you notice anthracnose starting on your greens and you take a picture with an intention to tweet it out. The simple hashtag #anthracnose is all you need to include in your message for that tweet to become relevant and searchable for others looking for information on anthracnose.
Avoid limiting or obscure hashtags. Same situation as above: you notice anthracnose on your greens and you take the same picture, only this time you use the hashtag #OMGanthracnoseattack. Using this type of hashtag becomes limiting and not helpful for others searching for tweets about anthracnose on greens. Being specific to the topic, and thus helpful for others, sometimes means being straight-to-the-point and not dramatic. Try this instead: #anthracnose and if you feel like you must, add #OMG and #attack separately.
Do not use spaces in your hashtags. A single tap on the space bar will end the hashtag. You see this one all the time: #poa annua. In this case, only the word #poa will be recognized as the hashtag.
Do not add punctuation marks. Punctuation such as periods, commas, exclamation marks, and question marks will lead to your hashtag not being recognized as a hashtag.
Numbers are OK. I’m sure you’ve seen this one before: #Time4Velista
Don’t go hashtag crazy. Two or three per tweet, at a maximum, lest your followers begin to think you are spamming them. One is better—keep it simple and on topic!
Create your own. Yes, you can make up your own hashtag pretty easily to categorize topics in your own tweets, help brand yourself or your facility, and create your own online identity. Stick with it and see where it takes you!
Last fall, I began embracing the hashtag #MITurf when tweeting pertinent information while traveling around my territory of Michigan. My goal was to create a place to organize tweets with useful information specifically for Michigan turf managers, since I have the unique ability to see hundreds of different properties in a given year. #MITurf currently includes disease outbreaks, cultural practices, helpful tips, and other trending turf topics aimed at providing Michigan turf managers real-time information they can use. It’s a way for me to connect directly to my audience.
Whether you are an established turf manager on Twitter, or someone just getting their feet wet, I would like to challenge you to start using hashtags to gain and share useful information with others. When used correctly, hashtags are an effective way to track discussion topics generated with simple key words. Your ability to communicate information that can help other turf managers succeed will dramatically improve with a few of the correct key strokes.
But before you begin tweeting turf tips, you better make a little time to call home and talk to mom, because she really misses you and you don’t want to see what her hashtags look like when she’s angry.
About the author
Adam Garr is a Syngenta Turf & Landscape Territory Manager located in the Midwestern US. You may also follow Adam on Twitter: