What is a hashtag? I’ll share a simple definition in a moment, but to understand you need to know what they were created to accomplish. Do you know what the abbreviation “etc.” means? It’s the word et cetera which is Latin for “additional unspecified odds and ends; more of the same.” It’s intended to reduce the number of characters (or sentences) needed to explain an item.
That abbreviation is a perfect example of not wasting time. We don’t write an entire list, or even the entire word. Although, here’s a question: why is the word abbreviation so long? Hmmm. Another post for a different day.
Since 2012, I have hosted over 350 authors a year on my Romance Lives Forever blog, and I’ve seen trends come and go. One that’s endured is adding hashtags to the subject. Why is this valuable? Because when the post is shared on social media, those hashtags will enable people to find it. Here’s an analogy that might help you understand.
What is a Hashtag
This symbol: # is called a hashmark. It’s also the abbreviation (there’s that word again) for number. On Twitter (and most other social media) when you add that symbol in front of a word, it changes the word to a search program.
Let’s say you want to look up the word “tweet” on Twitter. In the Twitter search box, you type #tweet. The URL that pops up is this: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23tweet&src=typd and all the tweets with that hashtag are listed.
Why Do I Need Hashtags
I’m a busy person. I know you are too. Imagine if you needed to pick up something at the grocery store, so you run in, grab a cart, and head for the produce department. When you get there, you discover a case for milk next to the lettuce. Not the milk you buy, unfortunately. Then next to the milk is a shelf with bread, but the brand you prefer isn’t there either. Then comes oatmeal. The quick cooking type–but your kids like the instant version.
At this point, you stop, look around, and realize the entire store has been completely rearranged. There is no rhyme or reason to its layout. It’s just whatever the store received that day in the back went out onto the sales area. No more aisles with bread, or aisles with canned veggies, or aisles with cereal. You have to walk up and down every aisle hoping to find what you need. How fast would you push that cart back to the exit and go elsewhere? Yeah. Me too.
Twitter is a store for information, news and opinions. It puts out whatever comes in as the info arrives. There is no order. You get what you get. If you want to find something on Twitter, you either look for a person who interests you, or a hashtag that does.
Hashtags are to Twitter what aisles are to a store. They are the “departments” where you can find what you need and what you’re looking for. I recommend having 1-2 hashtags in the title of a blog post, near the end of the subject. Use 1-2 in a tweet also. Generally, using over 3 hashtags is considered “spammy.”
What is a hashtag that works well for certain genres? That depends on what you want. Are you looking for suspense books with romantic elements? Try #romanticsuspense #suspense and also #romance #suspense together. What is a hashtag you can use to find info on your favorite TV show? Many times it’s the name of the show. Try #BigBangTheory #TheFlash #Arrow or initials, such as #TVD for The Vampire Diaries.
You could just scroll on Twitter and read, but what if you went there to find out if others are watching the same TV show you are? What is the show’s hashtag? Enter that in the search box and pow! There are all the show’s tweets. How cool to discover the cast is live tweeting! You can interact with fans, actors, and writers. Without a hashtag, you’d be lucky to stumble across even one tweet.
In the banner above, I use the hashtags associated with my writing, so people can watch those and find my books. What do you use when you search for books? When you browse Twitter the next time, click on a few hashtags and see what you find.
Coming next week – Best Hashtags for Writers