Social media experts say it’s a must to add Twitter hashtags to our tweets. Although I include author/writer and blog-specific tags once in a while, I’ve never really gotten into the habit of using them regularly, so I decided to research why they’re important and if they actually do boost my Twitter message mojo. Here’s what I found out.
What’s a hashtag?
A hashtag is a word or super-short word group (with no spaces) that is preceded by a pound (#) sign. Example: #writetip, #giveaway, and #amblogging. Hashtags are everywhere. They’re used on social media platforms like Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest to curate subject matter. Hashtags funnel messages about a topic into a single feed, which makes it easy for searchers to view information on a given topic. When a user searches or clicks on a tag, they’re taken to a results page listing all tweets that include the tag.
Hashtags help your tweets reach target readers
In theory, Twitter hashtags are a neat way to get your messages seen by your target readers. When you add a tag to a tweet, your tweet is added to that hashtag’s thread. For example, type “#twitter” into the Twitter search box. A thread will appear that includes every tweet about #twitter. If you want your tweets to appear there, you simply include #twitter in your own tweets.
Just to be clear, when you add a hashtag to your tweet, that tweet can be seen by anyone searching the tag feed, not just by people who follow you. So it seems using hashtags can be a good option for attracting new followers.
My beef: hashtags take up too much tweet space!
One of my pet peeves about hashtags is that they can take up too much premium real estate. Tweet space is valuable; we only have 140 characters to get our point across. Adding hashtags into the mix complicates the issue. Not only that, experts say when we’re tweeting a link (meaning a promo-type tweet, like a link to your book, your blog, or someone else’s book or blog), it’s best to compose tweets of only 120 characters of copy or less (some say only 100).
Why? A LOT of people use platforms like Hootsuite, which sends out retweets in a format that automatically adds the characters “RT: @mollygreene:” to the beginning of each message. And when a retweet (RT) is retweeted again by someone else using this format, (which is what you want, right?) it looks like this:
RT @mollygreene RT @Belinda_Pollard From my blog: What to do when you’ve finished the First Draft [19 character link]
Holding your original tweet’s content to 120 characters or less allows folks to RT you multiple times without cutting off your link. Pretty cool, huh? Belinda’s original tweet shown above (81 characters in length) has been RT’d twice and is still only 118 characters!
Because of that, be sure not to START your tweet with a hashtag, put it at the end. If someone RTs you and the tweet is too long, only your tag will get cut off.
Using too many hashtags in one tweet = spam
According to Hashtag Best Practices, “Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single Tweet. Best practices recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.” I agree; too many hashtags in one tweet looks like an advertisement. Can you say spamalicious?
Many Twitter hashtags are underused
I’ve read that hashtag popularity comes and goes. If you’re using one or considering which to use, take time to search its thread. Some author/writer tags are not heavily used. There are two ways to look at this: It might be good if you’re packing the thread with your own tweets, but methinks over time searchers will get bored and go away because of the lack of diverse content. But what do I know? As I said, I’m not a #HashtagExpert.
Some hashtags are off-limits
Some Twitter hashtags are reserved for the use of the creators’ followers. For example, #IAN1 is reserved for use by members of The Independent Author Network. Kristen Lamb originated #MyWANA as a relationship-based share-and-convo feed for her group, but over time it took on a life of its own, and now it’s mainly a link feed. (Sorry, Kristen!)
Certain hashtags are meant to be reciprocal
#MondayBlogs is a great tag for authors and writers who blog. But it works best when it’s reciprocal – that means if you’re using it as a means to get RTs, you should also be searching the thread and RTing other talented bloggers in the feed.
You can create your own hashtag
It’s simple to create a hashtag, and anyone can do it whenever they want. All you need to do is think of a word or phrase and add a # in front of it. The shorter, the better. (For more tips, check out Sue Collier’s How to Create Your Own Twitter Hashtags.)
As for me, I add #MollysBlog to every auto-generated tweet I send into my Twitter stream. Anyone who clicks on it will see a thread of my past blog posts. Hopefully, they’ll get a feeling for the type of content I publish and want more. Does it work? #IHaveNoIdea.
If you want to create your own tag, do some legwork first on Hashtags.org (active link below) to see if the word or phrase you had in mind is already use. While you’re there, check their analytics and articles for more info about hashtags.
Do you search Twitter hashtags, or just use them?
I don’t search Twitter hashtags anymore. Well, I did when I was researching this post. But typically I’m a Google girl. I Google everything I need to know. If I want information about Twitter, I’m going to Google it. So my guess is that a lot of people who’ve used Twitter for a while feel the same way, and it may be only newer tweeps who search via tags. Which means of course, that it’s still a viable way to attract people to your message. Am I right or wrong?
- When tweeting links, compose tweets of 120 characters or less (100 is even better)
- Get familiar with common author/writer hashtags 44 Essential Twitter Hashtags Every Author Should Know
40 Twitter Hashtags for Writers
- Use one or two (max) hashtags at the end of your tweet (the 100 character rule includes hashtags)
- Visit Hashtags.org to see which hashtags are trending in popularity and/or are already in use by another group.
Which hashtags are best?
I need a push to convince me I should include #hashtags in my tweets, so I’d love to hear your positive experiences with Twitter tags. Readers, do your tagged tweets get more attention? Which hashtags work best? Do you think certain hashtags get more action and gain you more blog followers – or help you sell more books? Do your hashtags get noticed by Tweeps searching the feeds? I need your input!
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