The other day, the EM asked me a whole bunch of questions about Twitter hashtags. I guess it was because I always use the two or three I know, so he thought I knew what I was doing.
I don’t, but I know someone who does. So I kicked his questions to Kriss Morton, who blogs as the Cabin Goddess and who, together with Kai Wilson, runs the Finishing Fairies publicist service and an author promotion group on Facebook called I Dance with Books.
Within minutes, I had more info about Twitter hashtags than I ever knew existed. So here you go: Hashtags 501, the graduate-level course.
1. How do you determine the best or most effective hashtags for a particular genre or subject?
Kriss: Do a search. Look for the best hashtags for your genre. Look up trending hashtags daily and try to use them. The more basic the hashtag, the better; the more unique, FAR fewer people will see it. So #epicsteampunkgoggles is bad, but a string like this – #steampunk#steampunkgoggles#epic – will get lots of views. #epic may be a bit too general, but it tends to get clicked on a lot. (You can eliminate spaces between hashtags to save space in your tweet – each will still be searchable individually because it starts with the # sign.)
— Short hashtags are best, so they use up fewer characters; this is why you see a lot of abbreviations in them.
— Keep hashtags specific – #urbanfantasy is more specific than #fiction.
— The more memorable, the better.
— If you’re deliberately trying to limit viewers of your tweets – say, for a specific event – then a unique hashtag can help participants find them without having to sort through a bunch of off-topic tweets.
2. Is there any way to tell how many people search on a given hashtag, or how many tweets use specific hashtags?
Kriss: Several sites can do this! Hootsuite and TweetDeck will show you tweets as they roll in. Other sites include www.hashtags.org, twitterfall.com, whatthetrend.com, and topsy.com. If you want to register a hashtag to help bump up its popularity, you can go to twubs.com.
3. Are there any hashtags to avoid because of overuse?
4. How many hashtags should a single tweet use?
Kriss: I try to stop at three. That is the current etiquette.
5. What is the best way to construct a tweet?
Kriss: The URL needs to be the fat part of the tail, with the hashtags at the end and the trending hashtag last. And if you’re discussing someone and you use their Twitter handle, place it in the middle of the tweet – it has a better shot at getting noticed there.
Think of it as marketing – you need three main things: a memorable setting, signature elements, and tension (drama, conflict, etc.). How do you do that in a tweet? It’s pretty easy. Take, for example, this tweet:
Take a break from #nanowrimo – read 13 BITES http://amzn.to/1a8Hk60 #shortstories #amreading
In this tweet, your setting is #shortstories and your signature element is the book title. And the tension is #nanowrimo, of course!
6. Is there a lexicon or list of all the Twitter hashtags anywhere?
Kriss: Not really. People are inventing new ones all the time. But here’s a list of useful ones:
For authors: #amwriting #amediting; #writingtip or #writetip (used by writing coaches, editors, etc.); #writingprompt #writingsprint; #nanowrimo (a big one this month!); #writerwednesday #fridayreads #ff (Friday Follow)
Genre hashtags: #book #novel #nonfiction #fiction; #paperbacks #short #story #shortstories #shortreads; #litfic is for literary fiction; #histfic and #histnovel are for historical fiction; #womensfiction; #scifi or #science #fiction; #paranormal; #crime #suspense; #kidlit; #cookbooks #food #cooking #recipes #nomnom (Kriss was compelled to add #bacon – she has this thing about bacon, see….)
For promotions: #bookgiveaway #free #freebie; #teasertuesday #samplesunday (for offering snippets of your work or a link to a sample chapter); #novelines (for quotes from any novel, yours or someone else’s); #poetrymonth (in April); #indiethursday (this is for readers who support independent booksellers, not indie authors); #new#special#free or #freebie#bookbuzz
For indies: #indieauthor #indiepub
Platform-specific hashtags: #ebook #amazon #kpd #smashwords #kindle #sony #nook #nookpress #kobo #ipad
Can’t find a hashtag you like? This blog lists a bunch more (and thanks to Lois Lewandowski for the link). Happy tweeting!