Twitter Hashtags and How To Use Them

Twitter Expert? Hardly!

twitter-128I'm going to state right up front…I am no Twitter expert. I will say, however, having just recently come to finally understand the concept of how Twitter works AND how other people use Twitter, I'm able to grasp the concept of how it can help me communicate with readers. With that said, if anyone else has anything they can add or correct me on, please leave comments. We can all be better at using this amazing social networking venue if we all pitch in.

Since I'm a fiction author, I'll be sharing this information from the perspective of novels and that portion of the publishing industry, so this article is probably more geared toward the fiction author who wants to learn how to use Twitter to get the word out about their novels, but the concepts covered here can be applied to almost anything, so read on. This article is long, but covers the following topics (click topic to go straight to it, BUT click the MORE button below if you're not in the actual article.):

  • The Purpose of Twitter
  • How to Use Twitter – The #Hashtag
  • Hashtags for Author, Readers, Writing and Publishing
  • Leveraging Mentions and Twitter Names
  • How to Run a Twitter Campaign (which mentions some Twitter Clients that make using Twitter easier)

The Purpose of Twitter

Twitter is a great way to reach out to people around the world, 140 characters at a time. That's the limit of a “tweet”. News feeds, updates, venting, opinions, quotes, links, chatting back and forth…you name it, it goes out there. I found two of my editing positions on Twitter, learned about new books, new authors, new websites and a slew of other information just by chance when skimming through the many tweets pouring through Twitter.com. Admittedly, it's a bit overwhelming at first. Hopefully, I can help take out the “scare” factor. Once you start using Twitter, you realize how important tweet real estate is…meaning you only have 140 characters to tweet something, so make it count!

How to Use Twitter – The #Hashtag

So what to do with all this information pouring in? More importantly, how do other people use Twitter? From what I've discovered, hashtags are the primary tool used to help people find information. A hashtag is ANY text proceeded by the pound sign (#). Anyone can create a hashtag out of #anything <– hashtag. And as soon as a space is entered, the hashtag ends. So if you want to hashtag “Science Fiction”, it would be #ScienceFiction or #sciencefiction. A popular variation is #scifi or #SciFi. Remember that tweet real estate I mentioned? Shorter is definitely better! Why is a hashtag important? Because when you put a hashtag in a tweet, it automatically turns into a link. THAT'S the key! If you see “#SciFi” in a tweet while browsing Twitter, you should be able to click on that hashtag. Twitter will then perform a search and show you the results for every tweet that has that hashtag you clicked, so in this example, you should get a list of all tweets that have #scifi. Are you starting to see how this can help you? If not, just keep reading. The important thing to remember about a hashtag, though, is whether or not other people are using it. Discovering those popular hashtags used for fiction is what made it difficult for me to utilize them. I didn't know which ones were popular or being used by others. However, with a bit of research, I've been able to collect a list of hashtags authors and readers are using to find each other.

Hashtags for Authors, Readers, Writing and Publishing

Here is a list of hashtags I've collected that are related to the publishing industry, more specifically Fiction. This list is not extensive, but it should help stimulate ideas to come up with your own hashtags AND THEN search Twitter for the hashtag you come up with to see if anyone is using it. For example: I'd LOVE to use the hashtag #SupernaturalFiction for my own fiction (#SNF is already being used by Sunday Night Football…pooh!), but not very many people are using it, so it's not likely someone will search for it and find my books. HOWEVER, to start circulating it, I will use #SupernaturalFiction, but I will also include the hashtag #Paranormal because that's a more popular tag used for paranormal fiction and people who love the paranormal (potential readers), which falls under supernatural fiction. I searched for #SupernaturalFiction a week ago and came up with nothing, but today found three tweets using that hashtag…so it is starting to be used. See how that evolves? You can create a trend! Please note: Hashtags are not case sensitive, so there is no differentiation between #SciFi and #scifi. One is just a little easier to read and that's my main purpose for capitalizing in the list below. Listed alphabetically, by categories I've created:

  • Genres: #SciFi, #Fantasy, #Romance, #Historical, #Fiction, #YA, etc. Just name the genre and put a hashtag before it. Remember, NO space if there are multiple words (e.g., Science Fiction should be #ScienceFiction NOT #Science Fiction). Some sub-genres are below under some of these main fiction genres. You can probably figure it out from there. 😉
  • Amazon: #borrow, #AmazonPrime, #prime
  • Bargains: #GreatBookDeal, #free, #99cents
  • Books: #books, #ebook, #novel, #GreatRead, #MustRead, #NewRelease
  • eReaders: #kindle, #nook, #kobo, #ipad, #ibooks, #itunes, #SonyReader
  • Erotic: #EroticRomance, #erotica, #erotic, #HotRead
  • Fantasy: #fantasy, #DarkFantasy, #HighFantasy, #steampunk
  • Indie Publishing: #smashwords, #amazon, #KDPSelect, #kdp, #lulu, #IndiePub, #indie
  • Paranormal: #ParanormalRomance, #PNR (Paranormal Romance), #paranormal, #ParanormalFiction
  • Reviews: #5stars, #4stars, #review
  • Romance: #romance, #HistoricalRomance, #HistRom, #WesternRomance, #WestRom, #RomanticComedy, #RomCom
  • Writing: #amwriting, #amediting, #amreading, #fiction, #writers, #authors

Leveraging Mentions and Twitter Names

As authors, we have to remember that our name IS our brand. Kristen Lamb says in her book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World:

“When you use anything other than the name that will be printed across your book, you give up your most valuable marketing real estate…the top of mind. Every time you ‘tweet' or send out a status update, you want those following you to see your name. It's like your very own commercial playing over and over and over, scrolling down the news feed.”

Read Kristen's book to get the basics on marketing and how general marketing needs to be tweaked to fit your author platform. She has so much valuable information. I highly recommend her book. So, continuing…My Twitter name is “@arialburnz” and every time I tweet, my Twitter name is at the beginning of my post. If someone else tweets my Twitter name, I get notified that I have been “mentioned” in a tweet. Just like a hashtags, Twitter names are also clickable. However, Twitter names when clicked will usually bring up the profile of the account of that Twitter name, so it's important to be sure your Twitter bio describes what you write. Here's how this becomes useful. I can be chatting back and forth between readers, people I know personally or other authors, and every time I tweet, people following me AND the followers of the people I chat with see my name. If they decide to check out my profile on Twitter, they'll see I'm an author and the type of fiction I write. If that reader enjoyed or valued some of my tweets, they now have a personal connection that can eventually translate into a sale. Woo hoo! But there's more! Notice I said, “…every time I tweet, people following me AND the followers of the people I chat with see my name.” This is where “mentions” come in very handy. When you tweet about someone, you should use their Twitter name. (Don't just tweet, “Check out Arial Burnz new book – link” or you'll miss out on the chance to spread the news. Instead tweet, “Check out @arialburnz new book – link“.) The person you mentioned (me in this example) will be notified and either respond or they'll retweet what you tweeted. As in the example, if you praised my book, damn skippy I'm going to retweet that! Retweets are how things go viral! You want as many people to see what you put out there. When you tweet, your followers will be able to see what you tweet. Then when they retweet your tweet, THEIR followers see what you tweet. If some of them liked the tweet, then they retweet it to their followers…and so on, and so on, and so on. How do you get people to retweet what you tweet? Mention them in a useful tweet. For example: I was featured on The Romance Reviews 2nd Anniversary Celebration for the month of March. There were SEVERAL authors that were also featured on that same day as I was. To help us all out, I tweeted the following:

“Join me and @author1, @author2, @author3 at the @TRRTweet 2nd Anniv Celebration today for #giveaway #freebook and #prizes (gave tiny URL to site)”

I only had 140 characters to spread the word, so I repeated that tweet with three more authors each tweet until I mentioned everyone featured that day. Every one of those authors retweeted my tweet, so that meant more people saw that post. Because of their number of followers, my tweets were potentially seen by 50,000+ people (I added all their follower numbers up). About 3 of their followers retweeted, so that upped those numbers another 17,000+ and those translated into sales and traffic on my website.

How to Run a Twitter Campaign

So, you've learned how to create and use a hashtag and you've learned some of the hashtags used by readers and writers to get the word out. Now what? Well, you tweet of course. “But I don't have time to sit at the computer all day long and send out tweets!!” you exclaim. I agree! Neither do I. That's what Hootsuite, TweetDeck and other such Twitter Clients are for. I've been using TweetDeck and am just trying out Hootsuite, but those of you who do use other tools, please leave a comment below to share. I'll show you how to create a Twitter Campaign, but first, I'll answer the question, “What is a Twitter Campaign?” Put simply, it's a period of time where you send out a slew of tweets for promotional purposes. For example: Remember that tweet above for The Romance Reviews 2nd anniversary celebration? Well, on that day I was featured on their site and was also featured on a reader's blog with a character interview posted on her site. To promote both of those events, I sent out about 32 tweets for the day, which sent links to those two sites and also links to my own page and Amazon, promoting my new release. Using hashtags, mentions/Twitter names and links to those sites, I spread the news about my events and some of my friends and readers retweeted the tweets. So, that's an example of a campaign. There are third-party Twitter Clients that not only allow you to interface with Twitter in a much simpler format, but they also allow you to SCHEDULE your tweets!!! This is my favorite part! Though it takes a little time to set up, once you get the hang of it, it becomes a breeze. Here are the steps I take to run a Twitter Campaign:

    1. Have Twitter or a Twitter Client (e.g., TweetDeck, Hootsuite or your tool of choice), ready to use.
    2. In another window, have either a spreadsheet program (e.g., MS Excel, OpenOffice) or a word processor (MS Word, WordPad, OpenOffice, etc.) ready to go. You'll be listing your tweets here.
    3. Compose a tweet in Twitter or your Twitter Client of choice, BUT don't send the tweet out. Their tweet box/interface will count the characters as you type AND it will take into account any links you include by shortening the link a little. (TIP: tinyurl.com and other such tools will make very long links shorter, but Twitter and some Twitter Clients will also shorten links for tweeting.)
    4. Once you've composed a tweet with the information and links you want to include, copy the tweet and paste it into your note taker you readied in Step 2.
    5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 until you get a list of tweets.
    6. NOW pick times during the day you want to spread those tweets out and you can tweet the same information a few times. In my Twitter campaign, I scheduled them anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes apart, scattered throughout the day from 8am to 6pm. Here are some examples:
      1. 12:30 PM, 3:30 PM – “I want the taste of you on my soul.” #quote by Broderick MacDougal in #MidnightCaptive http://amazon.com/author/arialburnz #borrow #free #Prime mbr
      2. 10:45 AM, 4:00 PM – #5Star #review for #MidnightConquest by @PThomasAuthor on #Amazon…#cheapread #99centbook http://t.co/lWeJ7bl7N
      3. 1
      4. :30 PM, 5:30 PM – At http://tinyurl.com/Fang-tasticBooks today w/ @RoxanneRhoads #CharacterInterview w/ #HOT #MenInKilts #giveaways of #MidnightCaptive & #MidnightConquest
    7. TweetScheduleOnce you've completed your list, copy and paste one of the tweets into your Twitter Client as if you're going to compose a tweet. However, instead of hitting the “Tweet” button, click on the clock/calendar button to extend the schedule box. Pick the date and the time you want the tweet to go out. THEN hit the “Tweet” button. It should put it into a queue of scheduled tweets.
    8. Repeat Step 7 until you've scheduled all your tweets.
    9. Sit back and let your Twitter Client do all the work for you, sending those tweets out while you're doing something else.

Rose McGrory does social media management and she writes in her article “Hootsuite vs. TweetDeck” that Hootsuite's advantage over TweetDeck is you do not need your computer running or connected to the internet because your scheduled tweets reside on another server. Also, Hootsuite has a premium membership that gives added features, such as statistics and bulk upload of tweets. You can download their sample CSV spreadsheet and use that as a guide to compose your tweets, then upload the file and BAM all your tweets are scheduled without having to go through Step 7 over and over.

What About YOU?

As I said, I'm no Twitter expert and I don't have all the answers, but the above information is what I learned and it helped me tremendously in being more active on Twitter. My sales have indeed gone up and so has my site traffic. It's worth a try! What about you? Have you been successful at using Twitter? Do you have any tips to share or tools that you've found useful? Any other suggestions? Please leave a comment below.

That's my two pence…

 

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