Federating Hashtags to Leverage Engagement Through Social Media

Recently, a small group of conservation district employees collaborated on standardizing – or “federating” – hashtags for use in social media posts.  We present the result of this collaboration as an in-progress update.  Suggestions to improve the concept and recommended hashtags will be welcome!

Download the document in PDF format: Hashtags – Standardized List and Usage – August 2017

Hashtags – Standardized List and Usage

PROBLEM STATEMENT

Seeing the extent and depth of conservation district activities should be easier through the use of hashtags in social media. Hashtags link social media posts together under a convenient search term. However, without any structure or organised method for using hashtags, the ability of the public to see the good work we accomplish is significantly hampered.

PROPOSED SOLUTION

  • Develop a standard list of hashtags that address core conservation district programs, services, and activities
  • Recommend usage guidelines
  • Invite conservation districts to use this system
  • Continually review and improve the standardized list and usage guidelines

CONSIDERATIONS AND CONCERNS

We’re all independent

Every conservation district is an island. Very few work so closely with their neighboring conservation districts that they know the programs and projects of the other districts. Their governing boards are each different. In such a setting, seeking to identify hashtags that will work for the most conservation districts is an uphill climb.

The system is only worthwhile if many districts use it

If one conservation district uses a standardized list, that may help them with their social media posts, but it won’t necessarily help to connect the programs, projects, and services that are posted to social media by other conservation districts.

To be successful at showing our customers and partners the depth and breadth of conservation district activities and outcomes, many conservation districts would need to (a) adopt and (b) follow a standardized system.

Hashtags may be regionally specific

There are differences in what each conservation district does. It should be easier to agree upon a common list of hashtags with a smaller group of districts. Thus, for this exercise, we propose to focus on Willamette Valley soil and water conservation districts.

The list may be useful to others

Conservation districts outside the Willamette Valley use social media. The experience we develop through creating and using a core list of hashtags will help inform other districts.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service posts quite a bit of information on social media, and they do not have an agreed upon system of hashtags. For example, healthy soil posts have been tagged as #HealthySoil, #SoilHealth, and #GoodSoil.

(Note that some tags can be read differently than intended. For example, without capitalization, #HealthySoil could be read by someone as Heal Thy Soil. Some customers may find this overly directive or offensive. It is worth considering how others may perceive proposed hashtags.)

The system needs to be flexible

The system needs to adapt to meet the changing demands of conservation districts and social media consumers. This means some kind of governance and decision-making structure will need to be employed. For now, we propose that this be based on consensus among the participants, falling back to a majority vote if consensus fails.

Hashtags need to be reviewed

Before being adopted

How is a proposed hashtag being used by others on social media? Testing what other posts show up with the proposed hashtag is highly recommended.

After being adopted

Users should regularly check how others are using hashtags.

What happens if a hashtag is hijacked?

Those of us who use social media have probably seen situations where a well-intended hashtag resulted in a flood of posts using the hashtag in ways not intended by the originator.
There is not much we can do about that. Our responses probably fall into one of four choices:

  • Ignore the situation and continue using the hashtag.
  • Stop using the hashtag until the flood dies down.
  • Stop using the hashtag permanently.
  • Go on the offensive and try to post more content with the hashtag than is being posted by those who are hijacking the hashtag.

PROPOSED LIST OF STANDARDIZED HASHTAGS

Water quality and quantity

#WaterQuality
#IrrigationEfficiency
#RainwaterHarvesting
#Bioswale
#RainGarden/s
#Stormwater
#WillametteWatershed
#ClackamasWatershed
#ColumbiaWatershed

Working lands

#WorkingLands
#PastureHealth

Soil health

#SoilHealth
#CoverCrops
#Erosion
#ErosionControl
#NoTill

District people

#ConservationBoard
#ConservationEmployees

Public and projects with public

#GrantProjects
#ConservationPartners
#LocalPartners
#AccessToNature

Best Management Practices

#BMPs

Wildfire

#WildfirePrevention

Wildlife habitat, including fish habitat

#WildlifeHabitat
#OakHabitat
#RiparianZone
#StreamsideRestoration
#PollinatorHabitat
#BeneficialInsects

Native plants

#NativePlants
#ORNativePlants
#NWNativePlants

Invasive species

#InvasiveSpecies
#InvasiveWeeds
#ORInvasiveWeeds

USAGE

A unique hashtag for each conservation district?

Should each conservation district have their own hashtag to bind together their posts and brand? If they are posting under their conservation district identity, then there is relatively little utility to including their district hashtag in the post. The exception to this occurs when the district has strong engagement with others on social media. In that setting, having a hashtag that reinforces the District’s name/brand could be helpful.

If staff post under their own identities, then including a conservation district hashtag would bind those disparate posts together.

Services

Standardized hashtags are proposed for use on any or all of the three main social media tools in use by conservation districts: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Chantel Huff, Conservation Education Program Assistant, Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Cathy McQueeney, Education and Outreach Specialist, Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Tom Salzer, General Manager, Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Alex Woolery, Marketing and Media Manager, East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District

One thought on “Federating Hashtags to Leverage Engagement Through Social Media”

  1. I received some helpful feedback from a neighboring state:

    – Really great idea to use standardized #s.

    – Suggest “less is more” – proposal lists a lot of #s. Using a few strong #s widely would be more powerful.

    – Suggest more active-tense #s. Research has shown it’s more effective to focus on actions, rather than the actual name of an entity or outcome. For example, Destination British Columbia (tourism office) uses #ExploreBC, and Alabama’s CDs use #ConserveAlabama.

    – Suggest using more inclusive language and less jargon. For example, #riparianzone and #conservationemployees seem like terms most likely used internally, but not by the public.

    Like

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