Know your hashtags

Popular across agriculture round the world the idea is of course that Twitter and Instagram accounts can broadcast to a targeted wider audience. But how well do they work in achieving this objective?

Twitter posts using English language ag hashtags number two to three thousand daily. #Agriculture is the most commonly used followed by #Farming. This kind of hashtag can be considered standing hashtags i.e. those in use perenially including seasonal perennials such as #harvest18.

In addition there are special purpose hashtags, for example a specific farming event or a social media campaign. These are not included in the analysis. Others not included are those used outside agriculture, for example #dairy also being used to promote dairy foods.

If hashtags can be said to have a killer app it is their ability to link audience members during live popular television shows and televised sports events.

For ag events the value is much less clear. Not because exhibitors aren't using an event's hashtag, there is typically a major spike, but because the target audience is being given little incentive to tune into the hashtag - too much business content is an off-switch.

The problem with using hashtags for marketing communication is that their reach is almost wholly dependent on the desired target audience choosing to follow the hashtag, and mostly they don't.

A TagSnag?

Check out the majority of ag hashtags and you see, primarily, a feed of business-originated content with a smaller amount of farmer published content, just pick out a few hashtags if you want to test this out.

In truth, the heavy users of hashtags are ag businesses posting business messages for farmers and hoping to reach a wider audience. Adding the appropriate tags kind of rounds off a tweet by seeming to address it to a desired audience but any increase in reach is marginal (you can check this out too by comparing the difference in impressions on tweets with and without hashtags).

Farmers are personal users; using social media mainly as a leisure activity not to receive business content and, of course, few people watch TV to catch the adverts. Farmer-to-farmer communication happens mostly because farmers are following other farmers and see content via their feed.

So to summarise; for marketing communications in agriculture the hashtag, while simple to use, appears to promise much more than is being delivered. Use them in the light of actively tracking any additional reach being gained.