I was in Iowa over the weekend enjoying some excellent time with family. Most of them have some idea of what I do for a living, and they know I'm involved in some social media activity. While our blogger Lavell Winsor does a great job helping you understand some of the key tools for telling your story, there's one idea that I think deserves even more attention: the hashtag.
I got asked a few times about what a hashtag is this week and I wanted to explain something that can be vague to people who really don't use Twitter a lot. So I came up with this approach:
Think of all those tweets in Cyberspace as a giant herd of cattle. They're roaming freely but there has to be some way to identify where they belong. The hashtag starts with the "#" sign and then is followed by a word or phrase. Think of that hashtag as a cattle brand helping to identify the animals that matter to you, and with millions of tweets flowing every second keeping track of some key issues is critical.
Lavell has talked about #FF - a hashtag that means "Follow Friday" and advises you of some folks to follow. You can actually search that hashtag and see what anyone has posted with that #FF in their tweet.
For Farm Futures common hashtags including #farm and #agchat, with that second one relating to folks interested in agvocacy and issues. Sometimes I'll use #ag and #food - the second when the link or comment shared deals more directly with food. You might also see #farmbill - usually followed by a comment about frustration these days.
If you're checking out Twitter, you can see what some folks post by simply visiting their Twitter ID's. You can go to www.Twitter.com/farmfutures and see what we're talking about every day. If we use a hashtag, click on it and you will go to other tweets about that topic (the hashtag automatically becomes a clickable link in Twitter).
Those of you wondering about the hashtag may already be seeing it on television and not notice. Television shows want you to tweet about them because it builds buzz and popularity. For example, on Dancing with the Stars (really I only watch occasionally) the hashtag for the show is #DWTS or for Hawaii 5-0 the hashtag is #50 (I watch this more).
It's a way for like-minded individuals to connect. So next time you're on Twitter - and if you're experimenting, that's cool - look for hashtags like #farm, #ag and for this week seek out #AgDay as we celebrate the industry. There will be plenty of tweets with that hashtag to see.