What is a #hashtag?
A hashtag is any word preceded by a # (hash symbol). Hashtags are widely used across all social media but first appeared on Twitter in August 2007. I love that the hashtag was invented by a Twitter user (@ChrisMessina) and that Twitter’s initial response was disinterest because the concept was ‘too nerdy’. The people thought otherwise or perhaps they were happy to be a little nerdy!
This post focuses on hashtags for Twitter although the principles may be applied to other social media platforms.
Are there any rules?
Don’t overdo it. Different platforms have different comfort levels. Studies have shown Twitter engagement drops with more then two hastags (but Instagram posts often have up to ten!).
Hashtags are not case sensitive. Capitals are often used to help make them readable but make no difference when searching.
11 Things a writer/illustrator can use hashtags for
Spread the word – General hashtags like #bookart #kidlit and #writingtips facilitate searches on specific topics so are valuable when sharing a blog post or researching. Meme hashtags serve a particular purpose for example #mondayblogs promotes a blog post on Monday and #followfriday thanks active followers such as those who retweeted you.
Add emotion or voice – 140 characters is not much to work with. Hashtags can add nuance for example #fail or #asif
Be a member of a community – Communities have hashtags that can be used to find about and even participate in their activities like #nswwc (NSW Writers Centre). Yesterday I joined with a group of picture book lovers to celebrate #pb10for10 with a post of 10 favourite picture books on Google+
Attend an event – Most conferences and events have a hashtag and a dedicated event tweeter so that you can follow points of interest even if you can’t attend such as #kidsstoryfest, #readingmatters2015 and #mwf15. Event and conference hashtags can be found on their respective webpages
— Danielle Binks (@danielle_binks) May 5, 2015
Follow the news – Breaking news, global and Australian, in all areas including literature, will quickly have a hashtag
Create connections – Hashtags help you find like-minded people to follow – if you are looking for new people to connect with who love Australian YA then a quick Twitter search of #loveozya will suggest tweeps.
Find items of interest on other platforms – Through the hashtag #wintercomfortbookchallenge on Twitter I discovered an Instagram challenge which I decided to participate in. I met new people and learned a new skill.
Attend a Twitterchat – Twitterchats are scheduled ‘chat’ sessions such as #ozyachat. There is a chat for everything! The best way to find a chat is to Google your area of interest eg ‘library twitter chats’ or ‘book twitter chats’. Even if you don’t want to participate, listening in can be a good source of information and finding people to connect with.
Research – Twitter is a massive database of facts and current opinion, searchable by hashtag. If you are looking for an expert you will find them on Twitter and they will be happy to talk to you. No awkward introduction letters/emails to write!
Support a literacy related cause or program – Tweet a relevant comment or link with a hashtag like #weneeddiversebooks or #indigenousliteracy or #greatbookswap Have fun – Often a hashtag will trend simply because everyone finds it fun such as #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter
#TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter Anything. Don’t talk to writers. Don’t feed writers. Do not make eye contact. Keep moving. You’ll be safe.
— Adam P. Knave (@adampknave) July 28, 2015
How can I find hashtags?
Twitter – Note the hashtags used by other writers, influencers or contacts in your industry. Click on the hashtag to see a list of tweets containing it to determine if it is of interest
Google – Search ‘hashtags for writers’. ‘hashtags for books’ etc Many blog posts cover this topic. Check that any blog post is current.
How can I follow a hashtag?
Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are two free applications for managing your Twitter presence and provide the easiest way to track a hashtag. In both applications you can add a column based on a hashtag so that any tweets containing it appear whether you follow the tweeter or not. Alternatively, you can do a search on Twitter
What hashtags are most useful for writers?
There are numerous hashtags for writers and illustrators of various genres and a quick Google search will easily find the current popular ones. This is a small selection of hashtags I find helpful:
#askHAU – Pure gold. Have you ever wished you had access to a publisher so you could ask any question you wanted? This is it! A wealth of publishing information on offer most Fridays from 3-4pm when a designated person from Hachette Australia (announced earlier in the week) answers tweeted questions. All questions are welcomed and answered.
This Friday #askHAU’s guest in the hotseat is author Stephanie Bishop and last week it was Head of Publicity Anna Egelstaff. Past sessions have included Sophie Hamley (Non Fiction Publisher) Suzanne OSuliivan (Children’s Publisher) and Louise Sherwin-Sark (Managing Director, Sales)
#ozyachat – fornightly chat hosted by @speculatef and @bookmanicurist. More information and recaps of past chats here http://www.speconspecfic.com/ozyachat
#loveozya – This is a new hashtag to raise the profile of Aussie YA and was created in the aftermath of the Australian Library Association report which showed the top ten YA books borrowed in Australian public libraries included only two Aussie titles. If you write or read YA this is an excellent thread to follow – to meet people, to find new books and to help promote Aussie YA.
#amwriting – There must be millions, no trillions, of #amwriting tweets. The reason I like this hashtag is because any random selection of tweets never fails to inspire me and make me feel I am part of a community sharing the same problems and challenges. Writing is not easy and it can be isolating. #amwriting helps writers support each other.
#MondayBlogs – Every Monday post a blog link and check a few links from other people using this hashtag. I choose to check links that also have a writing related hashtag so this is a good example of where two hashtags work best.
Curating with Hashtags
If you want to save a set of hashtag tweets you can use Storify. The ‘story’ you create can be shared or kept private. Here is a story I created curating the tweets for a Twitter bookclub session about The Pause by John Larkin. The hashtag was #ThePauseBC. Here is the storify for #KidsBookFest held by Vic State Library in 2015.
My Hashtag Tip
One thing I have discovered about hashtags is an ‘s’ can make a lot of difference. Topsy is an application which compares #hashtag use (popularity). Have a look the reach difference (tweets perday over the last month) between #bookreview (orange) and #bookreviews (blue).
Last but not least
If you are reading this post, there is one last hashtag you need to know #JustWriteForKidsOZ – the hashtag of the Just Write For Kids Blog!