• Meghan Ward
  • [NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS] Hashtags: How to Use Them Without Abusing Them
[NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS] Hashtags: How to Use Them Without Abusing Them
Contributor
Written by
Meghan Ward
August 2012
Contributor
Written by
Meghan Ward
August 2012

After @KristenLambTX decided to reclaim her hashtag, #myWANA, by announcing that she would block anyone who prescheduled tweets using it, I had to ask myself: Have I been abusing hashtags, too?

For those of you new to Twitter, a hashtag is a searchable keyword that you attach to a tweet using the pound sign. For example, this tweet by @advicetowriters uses three hashtags: “The first thing that distinguishes a writer is that he is most alive when alone. MARTIN AMIS #amwriting #writetip #writing” By clicking on any of those hashtags, you can view all recent tweets that include it.

You can find lists of popular writing hashtags all over the Internet. Some of my favorites are:

#amwriting

#amediting

#askagent

#blogchat

#bookmarket

#FF (follow Friday)

#FridayReads

#litchat

#memoirchat

#myWANA

#pubtip

#selfpub

#writegoal

#writetip

#WW (Writerly Wednesday)

I used to think that my most egregious hashtag faux pas was my failure to use them. Then I did a little research. It turns out that @johannaharness started the #amwriting hashtag as a live chat. Each morning she would take roll call (and she still does), and a small group of writers would chat about writing using the #amwriting hashtag. They weren’t using it to post links to their blogs. They weren’t using it to promote their books. They were using it to talk about writing. What a novel idea! The chat grew longer and longer until it was running 24/7. But the intention of the hashtag—and all hashtags, really—was never meant to be the classified writing ads of Twitter. It was meant to be a chat—a conversation among writers about writing.

You may have noticed that many of the popular writing hashtags have “chat” in their title. For a more comprehensive list, refer to The Writer’s Guide to Twitter’s Week at a Glance of writing chats. But what is the difference between hashtags like #amwriting and #writechat? “Slow chat” hashtags like #amwriting take place all day, every day, while “live chat” hashtags like #writechat (which often have “chat” in their title, but sometimes don’t, like #bookmarket and #askagent) host regularly scheduled weekly or biweekly chat sessions (except #askagent, which is unscheduled). Live chats have moderators and often feature a particular topic of discussion and/or a special guest.

For example, #blogchat takes place every Sunday at 9 p.m. EST. While some hashtags have their own websites, others have a Facebook page where the moderator posts a link to the transcript of the chat for those who missed it. The easiest way to take part in a live chat session on Twitter is via a client like TweetChat.

Whether you join a live chat session or tweet using the hashtag of a “slow chat,” employ hashtags with discretion. It’s okay to link to a related article or blog post, but follow the 5:1 rule: for every link you tweet, post five tweets that contribute to the conversation. To get an idea of why this is so important, click on one of the above hashtags and see which posts interest you most: the ones written by writers eager to engage in conversation or the ones posting links?

Another suggestion was brought to my attention by @Janice_Hardy: Avoid using a hashtag on tweets that tend to get a lot of retweets. This may seem counterintuitive, but think of it like this. If I post a tweet that says, “10 Ways to Get Your Book Published NOW: www.10ways.com #pubtip” and 20 people retweet it, my own tweet as well as all 20 retweets are going to post to the #pubtip hashtag stream. So when you click on #pubtip, you’re going to find 21 of the same tweet. Pretty annoying, right?

Hashtags, like tweet-scheduling, are a wonderful Twitter tool that should be used but not abused.

What are your favorite writing hashtags? Do you participate in live Twitter chats? Which ones are your favorites?

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Comments
  • Meghan Ward

    Thanks for stopping by, Latanya!

  • latanya west

    I love that I now have a go-to post that explains hashtags so well. Awesome stuff.  Thanks for this!

  • Elena Losasso Dillon

    It is a good time seeing what you can come up with.  Like #ihateitwhenthathappens or #whatjusthappend or when people do something nice like retweet I use #thecoolpeople.  So at least we don't always have to be so serious about hashtags or twitter. It can be fun too. =)

  • Meghan Ward

    Terri - You're welcome!

    Elena - Yes, engaging in hashtagery is a lot of fun. I like to make up hashtags, too, like #holyartichokesbatman or #toomuchofagoodthing.

  • Elena Losasso Dillon

    I also kind of make up hashtags. Funny cutesy things.   When I thank people for retweeting I use #fab or #hugs or #hugstoall.  I also always use #follow as a thank you. People seem to appreciate it and I only do it once a day and try not to be too repetitive.  Also as far as conversations go you can use tweetchat.com (free) if you just want to keep track of one hashtag.  I like Storage Wars and Bunheads TV shows so sometimes it is good to participate with other people who like what you like.  It's a good way to interact with people outside the writerverse.  I also use #englishbulldogs since I have one and I interact with people this way too.  It's good to meet tweeps that like some of the other areas you are interested in!

  • Elisabeth Kinsey

    You made it very clear, Meghan!  :)  I was just a little too slow.  teehee.

  • Meghan Ward

    Sherrey - I'm glad this is helpful for Twitter beginners, too!

  • Sherrey Meyer

    Helpful to those of us still somewhat new to Twitter.

  • Heather Marsten

    Thanks for the list of hashtags - still getting used to twitter.  Hoping your day is blessed.

  • Lynn Hallbrooks

    Thanks for clarifying Meghan.  Twitterverse is very confusing at times. I think it would be funny to she #linkless hashtag to go viral (lol). 

  • Meghan Ward

    Elisabeth - Yes! Sorry if I didn't make that clear.

    Laura - Good luck!

    Lynn - I don't think all hashtags necessarily have to be used as chats, but I found it useful to learn the origins of #amwriting and to understand better why someone like @KristenLambTX would want to reclaim her #myWANA hashtag from link hell. I do think that hashtags will be a lot more fun to follow if people use them to chat more and link less. Maybe I should start a #linkless hashtag :)

  • Lynn Hallbrooks

    Thanks for the information. I didn't know about the chat aspect of hashtags. I created a hashtag for our book to short form it. #CSWCSW for Call Sign: Wrecking (Storm Warning) I also use #CSWC for the team's name Call Sign: Wrecking Crew.  When I first used it, I double checked and I was the only one using that hashtag.  I even defined it on my twitter profiles. 

    I may be overusing hashtags, simply because I didn't have a clear understanding of them. I know that some can be tracked by people looking for certain things like #AuthorInterview or #BookReview via twitter.

  • Laura Armstrong

    Ah.......

    I was wondering how everyone actually USED Twitter. I've been trying all sorts of things and THIS was my missing puzzle piece!!  (maybe) Thank you!!

  • Elisabeth Kinsey

    I asked a student tonight...so the hash gets you to a page where all the people on that page have entered that hashtag.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

  • Meghan Ward

    I updated the post to make all the hashtags hyperlinks, so you should be able to click on any of them now to see their streams.

  • Meghan Ward

    Sharon, Twitter chats aren't necessarily for beginners, so don't feel bad if you're confused. Check out Mashable's list of Twitter tutorials for tips on getting started: http://mashable.com/guidebook/twitter/

  • Meghan Ward

    Elizabeth, if you click on the #amwriting hyperlink above (I didn't link to all of the hashtags I listed), you should get the whole stream and not any one person's tweet. You can also go to Twitter and type #amwriting into the search field. Or if you see a tweet that has used it, you can click the hashtag there to get the whole stream.

  • Meghan Ward

    Carole, tweets can be a maximum of 140 characters. The @ symbol is to reply to a specific person. Direct messages (DMs) are to send private messages to someone who follows you. There is a lot to learn. This post is geared more toward people who have had some experience with Twitter, but Mashable has a lot of great tutorials for beginners: http://mashable.com/guidebook/twitter/

  • Sharon D. Dillon

    Now I'm even more confused. I didn't know about these things. I just joined twitter because my friends told me it would give my writing more exposure.

  • Elisabeth Kinsey

    Okay, I'm going to look like an idiot right now, but I'm still not getting it.  When I click on the hashtag, it only gets me to the original tweeting person, right?

  • Carole Avila

    I'm almost embarrassed to say that I only know that a tweet is 144 characters. I never knew what the hashtags were about or why people use the @ symbol I saw a book at Barnes and Noble called "Twitter for Dummies" and laughed. Now I might just pick up a copy! There's so much to learn about the internet, protocol, and the basic "how to's." It's intimidating at times but I'm glad to know that I'm not alone.

  • Catherine Stine

    Thi sis all very helpful. I feel as if I finally understand the fine points of hashtags, so thanks!

  • Danyelle C. Overbo

    Great info, I have no clue how twitter works, so this is extremely helpful.  I'm going to look up Writer's Guide to Twitter now.  lol

  • Barbara Amaya

    thanks so much, I am trying to learn more about twitter and hash tags are one thing I needed to learn about

  • Tyra Brumfield

    Thanks for this article, Meghan. I thought that I understood hashtags and assumed it was for the purpose of live chats only. The popular thing on talk shows now is to post live tweets and to read them, hashtags and all. For example, the hosts will read something like "I've been depressed all day because my cat ran off with the neighbor's. #depressed, #lonely, #emptyarms, etc, so I became confused on its real purpose. Thanks for clearing this up.