Hashtags, we used to call them pound signs when I was a kid and, if you are referring to a phone number, sometimes we still do. They are all over social media; they infiltrate the way we talk to each other, but what are they?
How do we use them to optimize our tweets?
These are the burning questions I will attempt to answer today.
Or I’ll burn myself. Stick around and find out. (I am good at burning myself. By accident, of course)
So, what the heck is a hashtag?
And how do we use them?
Welcome, I’m Ann Shannon, the Manic Writer.
I write romance, erotic romance and sometimes a short story or two. I also do book reviews and anything else that grabs my attention. Today I’ll be talking about what a hashtag is, what it does and how you can use them to optimize your social media posts for their furthest reach.
My previous posts in this column have covered other basics about Twitter and its usefulness for Authors. So as not to bore you with the list, which is growing, I’ve made a directory of the posts I’ve done and I’ll be adding to it as I build this column. I hope you find it helpful and keep coming back to learn more.
I’m not the leading expert on Twitter. That’s what inspired me to write a series on the basics. I hear so many authors say they just don’t understand Twitter or how to use it that I decided to share what I’d learned about it.
Twitter is a great community I have learned to love. It didn’t come naturally to me at all.
I’m actually quite awkward on Social Media and rarely know how to respond to a message, or post. It’s worst on Facebook which will be tackled once I’m done with my Twitter column.
On to Hashtags
#hashtags (or something like that)
A hashtag, using the symbol #, is a way of narrowing the reach of your Tweet so that your followers, or would be followers, can find it with a simple search. (Note: Hashtags are used on many social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and I’m sure others that I don’t know about. For the purposes of this post I will focus on using them on Twitter.)
Defined by Google: a hashtag is “a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.” Clear as mud, right? It took me a while to understand them and even longer to figure out how to use them.
I still make a ton of mistakes.
Practice makes better, so keep practicing. (I never say practice makes perfect because only perfect practice makes perfect. I’m bound to make mistakes while I practice so it typically only makes me better.)
Let’s break down that definition
A word or phrase, typically a popular one, though you can make your own and build them, that other people will search.
Preceded by a hash, or pound sign (#)
Used to identify messages on a specific topic.
Twitter is loud!
If you open your main feed and try to follow it your feed may move faster than you can read. With hashtags we have the chance to turn down the volume of social media. Lady Gaga has over 67 million followers on Twitter and she’s following almost 130 thousand. I bet her feed just rolls right past her eyes. So how does she see anything long enough to respond? She uses hashtags. I’m sure of it.
Choose a topic you are interested in. Anything. I promise.
Let’s say green smoothies since mine is weird this morning and I’m resisting finishing it. Add a hashtag and go search it. I’ll wait. What did you find? I got a page full of yummy looking pictures and recipes. I searched it without the hashtag and while my search results did include the #greensmoothie it wasn’t as narrow and it included a lot of other results as well. The hashtag narrowed my search to just the item I was interested in.
That’s how you use it to find something. (I can’t finish the smoothie today, if you care.)
You can also use it to help others find something. I’m sure you see this works in the reverse as well.
If you tweet about your book, because you’re an author and you want people to know about it, then you can add a hashtag or two in to let them know key information about your book that might not be obvious.
For instance a good author friend of mine (EA Copen) wrote a great book called Guilty by Association. If I tweet that I read her book, or she tweets that she wrote it, it’s not patently obvious what genre it falls in, what it’s about, or if it might be remotely interesting to you. If you trust me, then you might go check it out. What if you don’t even know me but what to find a great book?
Enter the Hashtag
I add the #paranormal, #urbanfantasy, or #werewolves to my tweet and it tells you something about the book. It narrows it down. It also allows you to find my recommendation if you don’t know me by searching one of those hashtags. Maybe you love paranormal urban fantasy and you’ve read everything you can find. Or you love it but you’ve been disappointed by the last few you read so you’re looking for what other lovers of paranormal urban fantasy have read and loved. With a hashtag you are a click away from a list as long as your arm for recommendations.
As an author your book is a hashtag away from being on that list.
Choosing Your Hashtag
Not every word or phrase is a hashtag that’s likely to be searched. So I’d suggest looking around Twitter and finding the hashtags that pop up regularly and using them. That way you’ll be entering a common stream and be more likely to be found.
Of course you can make your own.
My friend JM Sullivan, who is my author spotlight this month, made her own Twitter game. #authorconfessions and it’s a huge success. She created the game and the hashtag, marketed it and got loads of people to follow and play along. It’s a lot of work but it can be done.
That’s a quick hashtag overview. Of course there is always more to learn about social media and hastags but that’s the nature of it and I’m only here with the basics. I’m sure as you practice you’ll learn more about them and see deeper uses for them. Drop me a line and let me know your experiences with hashtags, I’m always interested in learning more!
Thanks for stopping by the Mania!
The mania is always more fun with friends. Next month I’ll be discussing how to organize your hashtags! Subscribe on the sidebar, or follow with WordPress so you don’t miss a moment of the Mania!
Want to see what’s on my TBR pile? Check me out at Goodreads! Want to know what I do with my days? Follow me on Twitter or Facebook and drop me a note. On Twitter I’m active in the #5amwritersclub, #authorconfessions and other Twitter hashtag games.