What are hashtags?
A hash is the # symbol. A hashtag is anything preceded by the # symbol. Hashtags started on Twitter but have grown to include multiple websites. The # symbol lets the website know that something is a searchable keyword. Twitter and other sites keep records on hashtags, which ones are popular and who is using them.
Some hashtags are words or phrases and self explanatory. However the nature of Twitter and the internet in general is such that many are abbreviations. Most have agreed upon definitions and meanings. In an effort to avoid confusion tagdef.com and hashtagifyme.com both have common definitions on their site.
Which Hashtags should I know?
That’s a somewhat personal question. There are some general hashtags that all writers should know. (See article.) The answer depends on what kind of writing you do. You should know the hashtags most important to your genre. For the most part these are self explanatory. #yalit for young adult literature. #thrillers for thriller writers.
To discover the most important hashtags for your genre, use Hashtagify.me. Hashtagify.me provides analytics on hashtags. That means they have crunched the numbers on who is using what tags and how. Enter a term related to your genre in hashtagify.me’s search bar and it will bring up related hashtags.
Even if you think the hashtag for your genre is pretty obvious, it pays to search it. You might notice if you search “mystery” that term “thriller” is related and slightly more popular and the term “suspense” is slightly less popular. Think about your writing. If one of those three terms definitely fits your sub-genre and style, use it. If your novel could be in any of the three categories, considering describing it as a thriller to get the most bang for your buck on Twitter.
Searching related hashtags might reveal a related term you hadn’t thought of that describes your work perfectly.
How do I use them?
There are three main ways authors can use hashtags. They can use them to search for information. They can be used to make your books and blog more “discoverable.” Finally they can give you a clue to what’s trending.
Searching with hashtags
Twitter allows you to search hashtags through the search bar or through advanced search. Hashtags can be searched individually or together. Separate hashtags by a comma, so the search engine knows to treat them as separate terms.
If you are a YA author, get on Twitter and search #yalit, #blogger. In the search results select “people.” This will bring up a list of people who have used the tags #yalit and #blogger in their profile. Congratulations, you have found all the bloggers that write about YA literature. Follow them, check out their websites and interact with them. When the time comes, you have an inside track for getting reviews.
Or search #thriller, #amreading and get a list of people who have tweeted about reading a thriller recently. Check out their profiles and get a glimpse into the demographics of the average thriller fan.
Make your stuff more discoverable with hashtags
The second way to use hashtags is to make your stuff more discoverable. It’s not just writers that use hashtag searches. Readers and bloggers use them too. Make sure your promotional posts are discoverable by the right people by using the appropriate hashtags. The tweet “I just released a new thriller” will only be seen by your followers. The tweet “I just released a new #thriller” becomes visible to anyone searching for a thriller.
Find what’s trending with hashtags
Twitter uses hashtags to track what’s trending. Trending hashtags are prominently displayed. Often news events trend. People create hashtags for sporting events, political debates and other news items. You can get people’s reactions to a political debate in real time by following the appropriate hashtag.
Unless you are very lucky, the chance that your book is going to be trending is small. How can authors use trending hashtags? If you write nonfiction you might get lucky and a trending event might be something you are an expert in. If so, tweet away. Trending hashtags can show interest in certain subjects.
A lot of trending hashtags are interactive, with users adding to the conversation. They can be a great way for writers to show their creative skills. Awhile back there was a rather offensive hashtag #signsyosonisgay. LGBT activist hijacked the thread with their own tweets. Here is mine:
Some hashtags are ongoing. One is #fp which stands for Friday phrases. Friday phrases is a contest to write an entire story in one 140 character tweet. Fuck my life, hashtag #fml, are storie about those times when everything seems to go wrong.
How important are hashtags?
Hashtags started on Twitter but they’ve move to a number of other platforms. For that reason alone hashtags are important. Hashtags are a great way to increase your reach on any platform, make your promotions more visible and grow a bigger following.
Ten Hashtags Every Writer Should Know
1. #ww or #WriterWednesday
Hashtag for writers you follow or enjoy. A great way to cross promote. Share your favorite authors and maybe somebody will share your name too.
Followback Friday. List your new follows, people you interact with and people who share good things, but most importantly people with a good record of following back, because followback Friday is about building your following.
3. #amwriting and #amediting
Has it been awhile since you’ve released a book? Don’t let readers forget about you. Let them know you are hard at work on the next book with hashtags #amwriting and #amediting.
Write an entire story in one 140 character tweet. Post it with the hashtag #fp for Friday phrases. A lot of writers participate and share each other’s stories. It’s a great writing exercise and a great way to get noticed by other writers.
5. #99c and #freereads
Great for promoting sales and giveaways.
6. #ian1 or #asmsg
Hashtag for the Indie Author Network and the Author Social Media Support Group respectively, if you are in either group. Of course if you are in either group, you probably know the tags. Both groups are online groups for indie authors to help each promote their work.
Work in progress, a great hashtag for connecting with fans and letting them know you are working.
Litchat, founded by Carolyn Burns Bass, is a one hour literature chat that occurs every Monday at 4pm.
Flash fiction is short fiction (generally less than a thousand words). Like Friday phrases, writing flash fiction is both a great writing exercise and a way to show your stuff. If you have a blog, flash fiction can give hungry fans something to read between novels and curious readers a chance to taste your style.
10. Genre specific hashtags
#yalit #thriller #romance etc. Check out hashtagify.me and search words related to your genre to find the most popular hashtags to use in your tweets.
Bonus round #ask…
You can find experts and get answers on Twitter by using #ask… For example, need to find editorial advice quick? Try posing a question in a tweet with #askeditor. Working on a query for publication? Try #askagent for advice. Why would professionals take the time to answer random questions on Twitter? Well, its a great way for editors, agents, cover artists and others to build credibility and increase their following.
Finally, don’t overdo hashtags. Like these guys…http://youtu.be/57dzaMaouXA