Twitter for Rank Beginners III: Using Hashtags

Great, you’re all signed up for Twitter, you’ve personalized your profile, and maybe you’ve even sent your first tweet. (If you haven’t done any of these things, here are the links to the first two posts in this series:)

Today, we’re going to bounce ideas for what to tweet about, learn how to interact on Twitter, and discuss the magical world of hashtags.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering how to tweet–try the button in the upper right corner that shows a feather pen.

What to Tweet

It’s called “social media” for a reason. Twitter is a place to socialize! There’s nothing wrong with tweeting whatever pops into your head. But as an author, you probably have a secret agenda, too. You want to promote your books. Nothing wrong with that. But let’s talk about how to do it with style.

Just like your blog, you want to have content on your new Twitter account for your followers to see. The kind of content you might want to include:

  • Updates on how your WIP is coming along (advertising purposes and insider information for your fans)
  • Your recent blog posts (ditto the above)
  • Comments on the writing life (readers are fascinated by the mysterious lives of authors)
  • Anything that floats through your head–like how excited you were to see horses running across a pasture at sunset, or something. (readers also like to know your interests; it shows them that you’re human and approachable
  • Shop talk with other writers on Twitter (networking; there are tons of other writers out there in Twitterland–like a 24/7/365 writer’s conference)

The only thing you want to be careful about is to not over-burden your Twitter feed with ads about your books and blog posts. Some tweeters call that spamming and it could get you unfollowed–unless your followers really do crave every update. If that’s the case, congratulations! “Spam” your heart out and pat yourself on the back. You’re on the fast track to the best-seller list.

Even so, consider putting up plenty of content that will encourage people to start conversations and engage with you. The great thing about Twitter and other forms of social media is that it breaks down the barriers between authors and their audience. You can interact with people one-on-one and make loyal friends, not just loyal fans.

How to Grow Your Twitter Following 

I can sum this up for you in one word: Interact.

The fastest way to start feeling depressed about your Twitter account is to sit in your corner of the Twitterverse and never say hi to anybody. The first way to grow your Twittersphere is to follow these two steps:

  1. Follow other people
  2. Retweet, comment on, and favorite their tweets

But how to find people to follow? This is where we begin our discussion of hashtags.

Hashtags

What are hashtags? They look like this: #hashtag. (Fill in any word or phrase besides “hashtag.”)

Think of hashtags as passwords to secret chambers where people are talking about your favorite subjects. Hashtags are a powerful tool for connecting with other people of similar interests.

As a writer, you most likely want to connect with readers and other writers.

Using Hashtags to Find People

Go to Twitter and type a hashtag into the search box on the top of the page. (Remember to include the hash symbol itself.) This is the results page for the hashtag “lovereading”:

2014-07-10 Twitter search #lovereading 1st results pageYou’ll usually see a mix of tweets and photos. (This one happened to turn up photos at the very top of the page; there were tweets further down.) On the top center of the results page, you’ll see options for “top” or “all.”

2014-07-10 Twitter search #lovereading top-all

I get best results when I click “all.” This is every tweet, in chronological order, containing your hashtag:

2014-07-10 Twitter search #lovereading all results

Wow! Look at all those bookworms! Now jump in and interact! See a tweet that grabs your interest? Hover over it, and you’ll find options for “Reply,” “Retweet,” “Favorite,” and more.

  • Reply – Lets you publicly respond to the tweep. (If you want to say something in private, click the envelope in the upper right of the screen, click “new message,” and fill in the twitter handle and your message.) Publicly responding can seem scary at first, if you’re not used to what amounts to broadcasting your thought to a room full of strangers. Don’t worry. Most tweeps (Twitter users) are nice people.
  • Retweet – If you loved a particular tweet, you can retweet it to your followers. Retweets are a compliment to the original tweeter. It spreads their name to your group of followers. The original tweeter will be notified that you retweeted them and may be curious enough to click through to your profile and follow you.
  • Favorite – This is equivalent to the “like” on Facebook. Again, a favorite can lead to the tweeter clicking through to you and following you.

You can also click on a person’s name and go to their account. Read their bio and their tweets and decide if this is someone you’d like to follow.

You can also search for multiple hashtags at the same time. Try #lovereading #mystery. Ooo, mystery fans.

Using Hashtags to Help People Find You

This is the same as above, but in reverse. Any time you send a tweet, think about incorporating a relevant hashtag to help other people follow you. You can create a hashtag out of anything, like #ITotallyBurnedTheSpaghettiTonight, but unless this is an established hashtag with its own loyal following, you aren’t likely to actually find anybody that way.

Words to live by: Some hashtags get more traffic than others. 

One way to tell a good hashtag is to type it into your “Compose new Tweet” box. As you’re typing your hashtag, Twitter will automatically suggest popular hashtags.

It’s also a good idea to search a hashtag you’re not familiar with to find out how much traffic it gets (several tweets per day is good), and what kind of conversations revolve around it.

For instance, the hashtags #reader and #readers bring up surprisingly different results. Actual readers use the hashtag #reader to identify themselves as a reader. The hashtag #readers is generally used by authors, publishers, and marketing organizations to try to alert readers to their books.

Hashtags for Readers and Writers

Finding great hashtags can take forever. So I’m going to make that easy for you. Ready?

Hashtags for Readers

  • #amreading
  • #lovereading
  • #reading
  • #booklover
  • #bookworm
  • #reader
  • #IloveBooks
  • #readeverywhere (used with a photo of wherever the person is reading)
  • #bookselfie (used with a selfie of you and the book you’re reading)
  • #WhatAreYouReading

Hashtags for Writers 

  • #amwriting
  • #amediting
  • #wordcount
  • #writerslife
  • #writeon
  • #writerproblems
  • #writing
  • #writingpact (used with a pact, such as 1,000 words before bed)
  • #writers
  • #wordmongering
  • #writingprompt (used when sharing a writing prompt)
  • #storyideas
  • #writingtips (used when sharing a writing tip)
  • #writetip (same as above)
  • #wip (work in progress)
  • #workinprogress
  • #WIPlines (quote your WIP)

Hashtags referring to genres are also popular, such as #romance and #YA.

Conclusion

The modes of connecting with people on Twitter and growing your own following are endless. The key is to tweet and to interact with other tweeps frequently. As long as you’re interacting, you’ll notice new followers on a weekly or even daily basis. If you quit, your growth slows down noticeably.

Homework

  • Choose a hashtag from one of the lists above and copy it into the search box on Twitter.
  • Read the tweets and start retweeting, replying, favoriting, and following.

Questions? Just leave them in the comments! Next week we’re going to talk about an amazing, fun, and totally organic technique to put your Twitter following on Miracle-Gro: Live chats. Feel free to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss out!

Tweet It!

Posts in This Series

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