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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Proper Care and Maintenance of Twitter Hashtags for Writers

For writers, a Twitter account can provide a sense of community to what is, for much of the time, a very solitary activity. But Twitter is more than that. It enables writers to reach out, to share writing techniques, discuss trends, offer support, announce launches, reach readers…. Phew! In other words, it’s a great tool for connecting, learning and sharing.

But Twitter can quickly become overwhelming, even for the most experienced user. For the Noob (or newbie), Twitter can be frightening.

One of the most puzzling and misused aspects of the technology, whether you’re new to it or not, is the proliferation of hashtags (those strange words or phrases that are preceded by the pound symbol: #). What do they mean? Should we get the NSA involved? Do we need a Rosetta Stone?

No. All you need isa brief intro to them and a handy guide to help you chose which hashtag to use and when.

But why do people use hashtags?

The hashtag allows tweeters (posters into the Twitter stream or “conversation”) to target their post to a select group with specific interests. Relevant hashtags increase the likelihood of others finding and reading your post...and becoming a follower. They’re a wonderful way to engage a particular group of Twitter users.

How do they work?

The hashtag is a “tag” that Twitter uses to index tweets, much like keywords, that facilitate content searching by users. In this way, the hashtag is a way for readers to find content suited to their needs and interests much more easily…as long as the hashtags are utilized. And, more importantly, as long as they’re not abused.

So here’s a handy guide to Twitter #hashtags for writers. Apply them well and you’ll find that your tweets are a lot more effective. But misuse them—or even worse, abuse them—and your tweets will be lost or ignored. Finally, my advice is to limit your tweets to a maximum of 1 or 2 hashtags per post. Otherwise you really should be asking yourself: “Am I truly targeting my posts, or polluting the stream?”

(NB: tags with “chat” in them signify live twitter chats on the specified subject [eg., #yalitchat is about young adult literature]; anyone can follow these streams by typing the hashtag into the search field and can post into the stream by including the hashtag into their post; specific times for specific chats can be found by searching the web)

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#ameditingif you’re at the editing stage; for sharing struggles, success, requests for advice
#amwritingif you’re at the writing stage; for sharing struggles, success, requests for advice
#appsfor discussing apps (not specific to writing)
#askagentfor throwing out general agent-related questions (hoping for a qualified response) and for offering said advice
#askeditorfor throwing out general editorial-related questions (hoping for a qualified response) and for offering said advice
#askpubfor throwing out general publishing-related questions (hoping for a qualified response) and for offering said advice
#author, #authorsgeneral tag for targeting this community
#biofor providing info about yourself
#bloggingannouncements about your blog or blogs you read
#bookappsabout bookapps
#BookFridaybook promotion
#bookgiveawayannouncing a book giveaway
#bookmarketingfor soliciting or offering advice on marketing books
#booksellers, #booksellingfor targeting this group
#campnanowrimotweets about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)
#childrensbookstweets about childrens books
#dearpublishersimilar to #askpub
#ebookstweets related to ebooks, about ebooks, ebook publishing, etc
#editingless specific than #amediting and #askeditor; encompasing both
#edubkbooks about teaching
#ePrdctntweets about electronic book production (e.g. book designers, formatting, etc.)
#epubtweets related to digital publishing or ebook publishing
#epubchatTwitter live chat on subject of ebook publishing: Every other Friday, 3pm-5pm PST.
#FF, #followfridaya general hashtag used on Fridays for encouraging others to follow your Tweeps
#fictionfridayfor promoting fiction
#fridayflashflash fiction on a Friday
#Fridayreadsfor sharing what you're reading over the weekend; book and author promotion
#iamwritingsame as #amwriting
#indieauthor, #indieauthorstweets about independently (or self-) publishing writers
#indiewriterwriters looking to self-publish
#indiepub, #indiepublishingtweets about independent (or self-) publishing
#kidlitabout children’s literature (including up to young adult literature)
#kidlitchatlive chat group on this subject
#kidsgeneral tag for subjects about kids (usually coupled with another hashtag for specificity, eg. #writing)
#kidsappstweets about apps for kids
#kidsbooksabout kids books
#kindlechatlive chat about books released for Kindle and kindle-related topics: Time: Fridays 12pm-1pm PST.
#librariansfor targetting this group
#litchatlive chat discussing all things literary
#literacyabout literacy
#nanowrimoanything regarding National Novel Writing Month
#novelistsfor targetting this group or tweets about this group
#novelstweets about novels (often used with or replaced by genre-specific hashtags, such as #horror)
#noweditingsame as #amediting
#pblitpicture book literature
#pblitchatlive chat regarding picture book literature
#poemabout poems or a specific poem
#poetabout poets or a specific poet
#poetryabout teaching, writing, reading, interpreting, enjoying poetry, etc
#poetstweets about poets
#publishingrelated to all things publishing, trade, educational, indie, etc
#pubtipfor offering or soliciting publication advice
#readers, #readingabout this group, but often used to reach out to readers; book promo and sharing info about reading
#scifiabout the science fiction genre
#scifichatlive twitter chat about science fiction
#selfpubtweets related to self-publishing; same as #indie or #indiepub
#selfpublishingtweets related to self-publishing; same as #indie or #indiepub
#storycraftabout the craft of creating stories
#titletalklibrarians talking titles
#vsstweets about very short stories
#webfictweets about web fiction
#weblittweets about web literature
#wiptweets about works in progress
#wordcountfor sharing your word count; can help you stay focused, share your successes (and failures!) and motivate yourself and other writers
#write, #writersfor targeting this group
#writechatlive twiter chats about writing
#writegoalfor talking about your general or sepecific writing goals
#writequoteused when quoting from a book or author
#writer, #writersfor targeting or tweeting about this group
#WW, #WriterWednesdayfor shouting out to writers & suggesting authors to follow
#writetip, #writingtipfor soliciting or offering writing tips
#writingtweets about writing; very general
#writingpromptsfor connecting w/other writers by suggesting a trigger for a story; or to look for writing inspiration yourself
#wrotetodayfor offering or seeking encouragement
#yatweets about or targeting readers of young adult books
#yalitchatlive twitter daily chat


  1. I knew there was a reason why Twitter was feeling overwhelming, and you just listed it! lol! Perhaps #overwhelmed could be added to the list!

    ...and thanks for explaining all that about hashtags, too. :)

  2. This is a great explanation. I use Twitter often and one of the hardest things to explain to newbies are the hashtags. As soon as I say the word to a non-Tweep, I get odd looks. LOL!

  3. Hey JB,
    It's so great to see you here. Glad the post helped. Sorry, can't help you with being #overwhelmed by Twitter. I get that way every morning just logging on to my account. You just have to resign yourself to the fact that it's like watching a school of anchovies passing. Every once in a while you catch a glimpse of an individual fish, but for the most part it's a blur. The hashtags help.

    I hope you're still trying to get STORY FOR A SHIPWRIGHT published. I'll be the first to buy it!

  4. TY, Mizzez Melly Mel. I remember the first time I encountered hashtags and wondered what they were used for. They're really very dynamic tools, changing almost daily, some getting dropped while new ones are added. But they can really help target your tweets and identify others' that are useful to you.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  5. If I was leery before, now I’m downright terrified.
    Nine months ago I took the website-plunge. A month ago I acquiesced to trying out this blogging thing.
    After reading your post, Twitter will have to wait. Maybe forever.

  6. Hi Mirka, and thanks for stopping by.
    As with all types of social media, you'll need to decide for yourself whether spending the time and effort meshes with your personal and professional goals. Twitter's a great way to connect and keep an eye on what's happening with people you want to follow, but it can quickly become overwhelming. Using lists and hashtags can help you manage it.

    Whatever you choose to use (twitter, facebook, google+, blog, etc), if you decide to use it for networking and marketing, it will become very important that the content be regularly updated, which can be difficult for some people. It's one of the resons why I'm bringing in another writer to share the burden on this blog. :o)

  7. Excellent intro! I'm relatively new to twitter and trying to figure out how to use it with a group--thanks for the info! It feels very doable!

  8. I just get loads of authors self-promoting. I retweet a few of these, hoping that when I hit the premium list, people will do the same. However, I am concerned that all authors retweet only to other authors. How should be use hashtags to break out of the circle?

  9. Thanks for the great article. It helps me to use and understand Twitter better.