3 Cheers For Twitter Hashtags! Or Not?

hashtag

Image by Dan Moyle

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.

SPAM Hawai'i Limited Collector's Edition Tin (front)

Image by Eden Politte

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?

Recap:

To Do's

Image by Courtney Dirks

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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Image credits: Creative Commons License Dan Moyle, Eden Politte, Creative Commons License Courtney Dirks 

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45 Responses to 3 Cheers For Twitter Hashtags! Or Not?

  1. Chris Mentzer July 22, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Great article Molly. I’m still trying to figure out the whole hashtag saga. I rarely use it because I don’t know what’s best so I’ll take your advice and do some research. Thanks again!!

    • Molly Greene July 22, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

      Hey Chris, thanks so much! The best hashtags for us to use probably really depends on the subject of the tweet, so in theory might change with each message. If we live-post or schedule tweets using Hootsuite, we can access the arsenal of good tags and use them. Now if I can just remember to do that …. :-)

  2. Steve Vernon July 22, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Hey Molly.

    I use hashtags – but I haven’t studied the results closely enough to say whether using them works better than NOT using them.

    What I do find is that certain groups of Twitter-folk – (tweeps? Twitterlings? Twitterzens?) – tend to follow certain hash tags.

    Let me make up an example.

    There’s a hundred twitter-folk out there, actively following #steve’s-bvd-stains.

    THEREFORE – every tweet that I add the hashtag #steve’s-bvd-stains is going to be perused by those hundred people – as well as the all of the other folks who just happen to catch it on the regular twitter-flow.

    (don’t quote me on this terminology – I’m a fifty-five year old fart who REALLY doesn’t have any idea what he is talking about)

    THEREFORE – each of those #steve’s-bvd-stains hashtagged tweets – (shoot, I ought to write for the government – or maybe a lawyer) – is going to have the effect of an intensely personal conversation focused upon one hundred twitter-folk.

    You still can’t predict just WHO those hundred twitter-folk are going to be – but I believe that using the hash tag helps to more carefully focus the aim of each message.

    Still – if it came down to needing to lose content due to that whole 140 character limit – I’d lose a hash tag before I whittled my tweet down into a meaningless abbreviated message.

    As you say – and I think I agree with you – if you monopolize any particular hashtag to the extent that a hashtag shows a page full of your tweets you’re going to lose the whole effect. People will get bored just looking at your tweets and will stop checking that particular hashtag.

    Bottom line – there is no such thing as an easy answer.

    • Molly Greene July 22, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      Ha! I get your gist but may I suggest you’ve perhaps over-thought this issue? LOL! I’m going to check twitter right now for #stevesBVDstains. And thank you so much for weighing in – sounds like hashtags help!

  3. kari lemor July 22, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    I never really thought of using hashtags for getting more people to read my tweets. Hmm, must do some experimenting. Thanks

    • Molly Greene July 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Be sure to report back and tell us what happens!!

  4. Pamela Beason July 22, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    I can never tell for sure if a hashtag helps anyone find my tweets, but I do love them. I use them and search for them in TweetDeck, especially for book genres–#suspense, #romance, etc., and for subjects that I use in my writing or to find kindred spirits–for me, those are tags like #hiking, #kayaking, #scuba, #animals, etc. One of the more specialized and therefore more useful ones I employ is #GreatApes because of the gorilla in my book THE ONLY WITNESS and my ongoing interest in animal intelligence research. Some days I think in hashtags, such as #whattheheckisgoingon or #shouldbewritingbutamtweetingstead. Kinda scary.

    Great post as always, Molly.

    • Molly Greene July 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Oh, Pam! You’re so smart. I agree, the genre tags are probably great for funneling book link tweets to the readers looking for the genre. Great point! And I’m glad to hear someone is searching for like-minded friends on Twitter. All I seem to search for anymore are my glasses and my sanity. I agree re: thinking in hashtags – nonsense tags are really my favorites. Oh, and #ShouldBeWriting would be a great chat link. Mwah!

  5. Anne R. Allen July 22, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    I love hashtags and think a judicious use of them really can boost a post. But I agree 100% on the #hashtaghogs. More than two or three is totally spammy.

    But mostly I find they’re a great tool for searches. You get the most up to date info, for one thing, which Google doesn’t do. And nobody can pay to have one ahead of the others.

    When I was having trouble with Feedburner, I looked under #Feedburner and found a stream of tweets saying “Feedburner es patetico” in a dozen languages. That helped me decide to switch to MailChimp, which I did using your helpful links. (for which I gave you a shout-out on the blog yesterday.)

  6. Belinda Pollard July 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Hi Molly, thank you for quoting my tweet, I feel very honoured. :-) (An aside, did you know you can embed tweets in a blog, by clicking on the “More” thingy at the bottom of the tweet on Twitter? I only discovered that one a month or two ago, I think it was via Joel Friedlander’s blog. I’ve used it since and it’s splendid. Very pretty, gives pics and all.)

    I used to use hashtags a lot, but then I got tired of it all. Hastag Ennui. (or should that be #HashtagEnnui) I sometimes add #amwriting to it if I think it’s something general writers might find handy. And I dip in and out of #amwriting from time to time myself, so I can encourage other slaving writers with a RT or a reply.

    I have #amwriting and #selfpublishing streams set up in Hootsuite, so I can check them out easily. Used to check them a lot, but now the #HashtagEnnui has reduced that, too.

    I like Anne’s point about the tweets being more up to date than Google. Hadn’t thought of that.

    • Molly Greene July 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

      My pleasure! And no, OF COURSE I didn’t know how to embed a tweet. I can’t keep up with all the great blogs out there so I missed Joel’s post, but I just went over to Twitter to try it out and how cool is that? Sometimes the simplest things elude me. Thanks for the lesson. Agreed, I was “over” hashtags but sounds like I’d better pay attention again. Anne’s point also well taken!

      • Belinda Pollard July 22, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

        Haha, we help each other out! It took me 2 years to find out how to do that one. ;-)

        I love the way you describe things on here, as you discover them, in everyday language, instead of geekspeak which I’m sure is very accurate, but unfortunately impenetrable to me. Thank you! You are a great friend and helper to all of the non-geek bloggers like me. :-)

        • Molly Greene July 23, 2013 at 7:19 am #

          Thank you, Belinda! It’s taken me a long time but I’ve found great power in being able to admit I don’t know what I’m doing. Haha!

  7. Rochelle July 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    I search writing hashtags and trending ones, but I don’t search for any other type. I heard I was supposed to include at least one # per tweet and I started doing that, but it is awkward for me. I tweeted about our blackberry picking (riveting, I know) and used #blackberries … it felt lame. So I have now changed back to just writing hashtags. You have given me a few more hashtags to search for though. I like the idea of #MollysBlog, it’d be cool if there was a way to find out how helpful it is. I do like Pam’s suggestion though and will have to give that a whirl!

    • Molly Greene July 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

      Rochelle, I just visited your blog to see if I could find a post about picking blackberries (love to pick them, love to eat them!!) Didn’t see one but love your website. As for hashtags, if you’re tweeting about posts you can also try #amblogging and #MondayBlogs. As for gauging if #MollysBlog works, again, #IHaveNoIdea. But it’s kinda fun to just have my own thread … even if no one ever reads it :-O Let us know if you find a tag you love!

      • Rochelle July 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

        Thanks Molly! I’m grateful you stopped by for a bit. I could have been clearer; I didn’t publish a post about blackberries, just a photo and tweet about it. I will try out the #amblogging and #mondayblogs, as well as experiment with some new ones. I’ll let you know if I find anything that works really well.

        • Molly Greene July 23, 2013 at 7:20 am #

          Thanks Rochelle, I’m looking forward to hearing what you come up with!

  8. Brinda July 22, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    I found that my book reviews get more RTs when I use #bookreview and #amreading. I also use hash tags sometimes to look for new people to follow.

    • Molly Greene July 23, 2013 at 7:23 am #

      Good tip Brinda! Hmmm, I’ve never used #bookreview – I hope it’s readers searching for good reads using those hashtags?!

  9. Shirley Ford July 23, 2013 at 3:39 am #

    Another great article. I keep forgetting to use them – #idiot !

    • Molly Greene July 23, 2013 at 7:23 am #

      Ha ha! I’m right there with you, Shirley.

  10. Sam Richardson July 23, 2013 at 4:42 am #

    Molly I love this article! And I love Hashtags too. I made a hashtag out of dominos using the Vine app for Social Media Day last month and it was featured on Mashable’s website. Power of the Hashtag has become a cultural phenomenon.

    • Molly Greene July 23, 2013 at 7:29 am #

      Congratulations Sam! I’ve heard a lot about the Vine app and I think it will become super popular and important, just like hashtags. Here’s the link to Sam’s video on Mashable if anyone would like to view it: 11 Vine Videos that Celebrate Connections

  11. Jill Haugh July 23, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    Hi Molly,
    Very #informative and #interesting post.
    Thanks for the tips!
    ~Just JIll

    • Molly Greene July 23, 2013 at 7:31 am #

      #My #Pleasure – thanks so much for stopping by!!

  12. Carmen Amato July 23, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    Hashtags are essential during Tweet chats and a great way to “meet” those participating.

    Love the suggestion about creating a hashtag that links posts; I’ve started a new #BookSavor (!!) series on my blog and that would be a great device to let folks on Twitter find all the posts in the series.

    Thanks for all the good ideas!

    • Molly Greene July 23, 2013 at 9:22 am #

      Yaaay! Thanks for the reminder about tweet chats, Carmen — which are super fun, by the way — and so happy you found a good takeaway idea. Best of luck to you with your series!

  13. Sunni July 23, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    As a newbie tweeter I enjoy going to the #free site. I’ve discovered great new authors and books that might be free on Amazon for a day or two. If the book is good it leads me back to buy another one by the author. I guess this is what that hashtag is supposed to do! Thanks for insightful blogs!

    • Molly Greene July 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

      Ah, you’re right Sunni, I forgot about the #free kindle book feed. Thanks so much for the reminder!

  14. Mary Tod July 23, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Great summary, Molly. I particularly like the #IHaveNoIdea hash tag :-)

    • Molly Greene July 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

      Made me laugh! I think we should use that for a tweet chat sometime, lol!

  15. KB July 23, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    Great useful post with very helpful additional links! Especially like authormedia.com and your “RECAP” section at end of post :)

    • Molly Greene July 23, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

      Thanks so much, KB! I should recap every post …. hmmm. Great idea!

  16. C. R. Myers July 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Hi Molly,

    Great article, as usual. I used to use them religiously, but have slacked off during the last year. Think I’ll start back up. :)

    Thanks,
    Cat :)

    • Molly Greene July 25, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

      I’m with you, CR. I started to wonder if they were doing any good! I’m back on the bandwagon now.

  17. Tracey Best July 26, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    Molly,
    Thanks for another great post. Lots of good ideas in the comments as well, especially the hashtag #bookreview. Your blog posts helped me out a lot in the past when I was just getting started with Twitter. One hashtag I use sometimes is #goodbook. I have to be careful not to be irritating but on any given night there are always a handful of people asking for book suggestions and it’s been a good way to connect with readers. Not sure which hashtags readers search though. It would be helpful to know. Also ran across #YAlitchat the other day.

    • Molly Greene July 27, 2013 at 8:36 am #

      Thank you, Tracey! I thought the #bookreview suggestion was a great one too, and as soon as I get my act together I will use it. Meanwhile I’ll check out #goodbook – and yes, good for you for noting the fine line all indie authors walk between promotion and self-indulgence.

  18. Laura Zera July 29, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Great post, Molly. I also didn’t know about embedding tweets in a blog post. Has anyone mentioned hashtags and Facebook yet? They’ve got them now, too! Click on one and you get a pop-up window with a feed of other related posts of ‘friends of friends’ or sponsored posts or fan pages, etc.

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      Thanks, Laura! I did mention other platforms use them, but I haven’t myself searched with or incorporated hashtags anywhere but Twitter. Facebook makes me waste too much time already!

  19. Sakib Khan August 24, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Well, I learnt very important points regarding twitter.You simply explained me that we can use twitter as a promoting weapon.I am thankful you for paying attention on twitter # Hashtag. Your are very fine writer.

    • Molly Greene August 24, 2013 at 10:18 am #

      Yes, Twitter is a great promo tool – but be sure to balance promo-type tweets with helpful content, updates, and conversations. We don’t want to be annoying!

  20. Terry Tyler July 15, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    Excellent post, as always. Yes – my biggest beef with these ‘extra exposure’ hashtags is that so many people just add it to the tweet without doing any RTs – I notice that in particular with #wwwblogs (blog posts, Wednesdays only). Only about 10% of the people who use it actually RT. If you RT them, they just say ‘thanks for the RT’ (which is completely unnecessary), and don’t RT back!!!! Monday Blogs is brilliant, though – it’s really got my blogs off the ground, and happily it’s so hugely populated now that the people who don’t RT back (ie,play the game!) don’t get any results for it, so drop off after a few weeks.

    • Molly Greene July 15, 2014 at 7:16 am #

      Thanks, Terry – I’ll admit that one of the reasons I don’t use #MondayBlogs regularly is that I don’t have time to RT others who use the hashtag, so thanks for pointing that out. And I hadn’t ever heard of #wwwblogs, so great info for bloggers there, thanks for that!

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