Hashtags 501 (The Graduate-Level Course)

The other day, the EM asked me a whole bunch of questions about Twitter hashtags. I guess it was because I always use the two or three I know, so he thought I knew what I was doing.

I don’t, but I know someone who does. So I kicked his questions to Kriss Morton, who blogs as the Cabin Goddess and who, together with Kai Wilson, runs the Finishing Fairies publicist service and an author promotion group on Facebook called I Dance with Books.

Within minutes, I had more info about Twitter hashtags than I ever knew existed. So here you go: Hashtags 501, the graduate-level course.

1. How do you determine the best or most effective hashtags for a particular genre or subject?

Kriss: Do a search. Look for the best hashtags for your genre. Look up trending hashtags daily and try to use them. The more basic the hashtag, the better; the more unique, FAR fewer people will see it. So #epicsteampunkgoggles is bad, but a string like this – #steampunk#steampunkgoggles#epic – will get lots of views. #epic may be a bit too general, but it tends to get clicked on a lot. (You can eliminate spaces between hashtags to save space in your tweet – each will still be searchable individually because it starts with the # sign.)

Four more hints:

— Short hashtags are best, so they use up fewer characters; this is why you see a lot of abbreviations in them.

— Keep hashtags specific – #urbanfantasy is more specific than #fiction.

— The more memorable, the better.

— If you’re deliberately trying to limit viewers of your tweets – say, for a specific event – then a unique hashtag can help participants find them without having to sort through a bunch of off-topic tweets.

2. Is there any way to tell how many people search on a given hashtag, or how many tweets use specific hashtags?

Kriss: Several sites can do this! Hootsuite and TweetDeck will show you tweets as they roll in. Other sites include www.hashtags.org, twitterfall.com, whatthetrend.com, and topsy.com. If you want to register a hashtag to help bump up its popularity, you can go to twubs.com.

3. Are there any hashtags to avoid because of overuse?

Kriss: No.

4. How many hashtags should a single tweet use?

Kriss: I try to stop at three. That is the current etiquette.

5. What is the best way to construct a tweet?

Kriss: The URL needs to be the fat part of the tail, with the hashtags at the end and the trending hashtag last. And if you’re discussing someone and you use their Twitter handle, place it in the middle of the tweet – it has a better shot at getting noticed there.

Think of it as marketing – you need three main things: a memorable setting, signature elements, and tension (drama, conflict, etc.). How do you do that in a tweet? It’s pretty easy. Take, for example, this tweet:

Take a break from #nanowrimo – read 13 BITES http://amzn.to/1a8Hk60 #shortstories #amreading

In this tweet, your setting is #shortstories and your signature element is the book title. And the tension is #nanowrimo, of course!

6. Is there a lexicon or list of all the Twitter hashtags anywhere?

Kriss: Not really. People are inventing new ones all the time. But here’s a list of useful ones:

For authors: #amwriting #amediting; #writingtip or #writetip (used by writing coaches, editors, etc.); #writingprompt #writingsprint; #nanowrimo (a big one this month!); #writerwednesday #fridayreads #ff (Friday Follow)

Genre hashtags: #book #novel #nonfiction #fiction; #paperbacks #short #story #shortstories #shortreads; #litfic is for literary fiction; #histfic and #histnovel are for historical fiction; #womensfiction; #scifi or #science #fiction; #paranormal; #crime #suspense; #kidlit; #cookbooks #food #cooking #recipes #nomnom (Kriss was compelled to add #bacon – she has this thing about bacon, see….)

For promotions: #bookgiveaway #free #freebie; #teasertuesday #samplesunday (for offering snippets of your work or a link to a sample chapter); #novelines (for quotes from any novel, yours or someone else’s); #poetrymonth (in April); #indiethursday (this is for readers who support independent booksellers, not indie authors); #new#special#free or #freebie#bookbuzz

For indies: #indieauthor #indiepub

Platform-specific hashtags: #ebook #amazon #kpd #smashwords #kindle #sony #nook #nookpress #kobo #ipad

Can’t find a hashtag you like? This blog lists a bunch more (and thanks to Lois Lewandowski for the link). Happy tweeting!

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

19 thoughts on “Hashtags 501 (The Graduate-Level Course)”

  1. Good overview of Hashtags. It drives me crazy when people just fill a tweet with hashtags.

    The other thing I would mention is if you are trying to round up like minded people, putting a hashtag that is unique and very random will not pull any results. So if you put – #booksareaddicting – it’s pretty much a waste of space. The only way it would be recognized is if someone else uses that exact phrase.

    Keep it to one or two word phrases that someone might actually search for.
    Thanks for the post!

    1. You’re welcome, Kathy! You’re right, Facebook does allow hashtags. I’ve started seeing them cropping up on Google Plus, too. Conceivably, they could be used for them for target marketing on both platforms. I haven’t seen any information, though, on whether people are using them for that purpose to any great degree yet.

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