Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Hashtags: What are they and why do I need them?

Hashtags are an essential tool for any promotion. For the sake of conversation, let's talk books.

What is a hashtag?

Firstly, a hashtag is made up of two components...the hash and the tag or keyword. Using the two together creates a type of label or metatag used on social media to make it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or similar content.

The has looks like this #. Back in the old days, we called this the pound sign, but with most things, over time, names and meanings can change. In a time of social media, this innocent looking character has become something which holds much power.

Why?

Using this symbol alerts social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to share the topic on the hash, much like a neon arrow that's blinking, "Hey, over here...someone's talking about your book!" And with luck, that person will be inspired to buy your book, or whatever you're promoting.

Each social media site uses the hashtags a little differently. On Instagram or Pinterest, using #wheatfield will bring up all the imagesof wheat fields. Or #starrynight will bring up all the night skies full of stars. Or #runninghorses, #dogtricks, #coffeemugs, etc...any image using those hashtags will come up for you to see, as long as they've been properly tagged.

On social media like Facebook and Twitter, hashtags will bring up all the posts where a hashtag has been used. It's more than just putting a hashtag in a message post. It has to relate to something you're promoting. If it's your book, be sure the post as relevant information pertaining to your books...the cover, perhaps a story blurb, and a buy link. Always list a buy link! And add your relevant hashtags at the bottom so that your post, and others like it, will be picked up when a reader clicks on it.

You'll know the tag is topic-linked when the hash and the word are highlighted. Anyone who clicks on that link will be taken to a page where your original post is located, and where to where everyone else who's using the same tag word(s) or phrase will come up.

For example, let's use Tirgearr Publishing, our parent company.

On Twitter, using #Tirgearr will show you everyone who's using this particular hashtag.

On Facebook, it will do the same thing, but only show you Facebook results, #Tirgearr.

Different services and different results because users tend to prefer one service or the other. But both will show you results relevant to Tirgearr.

And while you'll find that most using this tag are Tirgearr authors promoting their work, or official Tirgearr events, using other words as tags will give you different results. You can literally hashtag anything. But if you're selling something, try making your tags as direct as possible to your product. In our case, books.

Hashtags are a great form of soft marketing. Why?

Anyone following #Tirgearr may hope to find the latest romance release, but could find the latest thriller instead. Maybe they'll buy both books.

Let's say Kate Robbins uses #Tirgearr on her post about her #HighlandChiefs series. A reader clicks on #Tirgearr and finds not only Kate's series, but also the #ChastityFlame series by KA Laity. Why would this happen? KA Laity is also using #Tirgearr.

Similarly, if Tegon Maus uses #Tirgearr in his post about #Bob, readers could also discover David Toft's #Kyklos series. Again, this happens because both Tegon and David are using #Tirgearr on their message posts.

Often authors may use conjoined tags, such as #Tirgearr #Robbins. Everything related to Tirgearr and Kate Robbins will pop up, or anyone called Robbins who also used Tirgearr in a tag.

Don't stop at just one hashtag. You can use multiples in one post, such as:

#TirgearrPublishing
#TeamTirgearryen
#HouseofTirgearryen
#TirgearrNewsletter
#TirgearrsBigBirthdayBash
#Birthday

Or use the series name:

#CityNights
#HighlandChiefs
#ChastityFlame
#IrishPride

etc

Keep in mind the more generic you go, the more random your result. Use #fiction and thousands of posts will come up that used this tag. Use #historicalromance to refine your search but still thousands of posts relating to historical romances will come up because they've used the tag. Refine further to help narrow your results, such as #Tirgearr and #historicalromance.

The main thing to remember is NO SPACES or you'll break the tag. If you use #Birthday Party, only Birthday will link to the tag.

Remember when I said 'you can literally hastag anything'?

You can make hashtags fun by getting creative.

#YouCanLiterallyHashtagAnything
#PartyAtMyPlace
#WritingTodayFromThePub
#MyDogIsMyMuse

etc

Last month I did a giveaway of my Irish Pride box set. My hashtags included...

#IrishPride
#IrishRomance
#TirgearrPublishing
#RhythmOfMyHeart
#APieceOfMyHeart
#ShapeOfMyHeart
#ReadMeImIrish

Last month I also posted a message that was just hashtags to describe a new series I'm working on...

#newseries
#amwriting
#somethingdifferent
#thiswillfreakyouout!

I've also used:

#IBetYouDidntKnow
#FunFacts
#ResearchIsATimeSuck
#ResearchCanBeEnlightdning

etc

Popular hashtags for writers include:

#amwriting
#waswriting
#wordcount
#theend
#typedtheend
#ineedcoffee (or tea or favorite beverage)
#ineedcookies (cake or pie, or favorite indulgence)
#metmywordcount
#sale
#booksale
#birthday
#freebies
#givaway

...and more.

Something to note: Hashtags are not case sensitive. #tirgearrpublishing will do the same thing as #TirgearrPublishing. Sometimes it's just handier to capitalize each real word so it's easier to read.

Also, don't use apostrophes and commas, or they'll break the tag too. Just use plain text or numbers, but leave out punctuation...except for the hash!

However you use your hashtags, try making them relevant. It can be a lot of  fun coming up with amusing ones to make people laugh. I've seen people hold whole conversations using nothing but hashtags. If people smile or laugh at your effort, they'll remember your tags, and hopefully your books.

Tips:

#makethemrelevant
#havefun
#addsomehumor
#itllbeworthit

#GoForthAndHashtag!

What hashtags have you used? Share them in the comments and we'll check them out!