Sunday, February 19, 2012

What is a Hashtag and Why do I Want to Use One?

I keep hearing about hash tags and I have decided it's time to learn how to use them. I know I've just lost about half my readers i.e. those who have known about hash tags since they were in diapers. This post is for the rest of us!

If you follow me, you know I'm about as techie as a zoo monkey. I read articles on how to do web-related applications and then I spend HOURS trying to apply them--banging on my keys, pulling out my hair, throwing my feces (okay, I'm not that bad) until finally, through sheer willpower and some luck, my computer submits to me and the desired result is produced.

People say using hash tags is easy. Some people say that cooking is easy. Some people say that building houses is easy. I say writing novels is easy. We'll see about hash tags...

Today I set aside the whole day to learn what they are and how to use them. To my pleasant surprise, I figured them out in five minutes! I don't know what is more exciting--using hash tags or having the rest of my day free!

Why hash tag? It's free and the potential benefits are unlimited. One of the differences between Facebook and Twitter is that Tweets are searchable. On Facebook, you can't search for all posts related to book marketing. It doesn't work like that. Even if you could, you would only be able to see your own friends' posts.

Twitter is open to everyone. I can type "book marketing" in Twitter search and read loads of related tweets about book marketing. It's a great way to find people with the same interests I have and network. If I hash tag my own tweets, they will show up in other people's searches. This helps new people with similar interests find me. Hashtagging will advance me toward the goal of breaking out of my own circle of friends. I can create my own hash tag or use existing ones (see linked article below for how to do this). 

Today I wrote and hash tagged two tweets. The first included a link to Shannon Yarbrough's guest post on my blog: Book Marketing: Back to Basics. I hash tagged it with #bookmarketing and #selfpublishing. Then I tweeted about my book giveaway on Goodreads and hash tagged it #goodreads giveaway. My tweets are more likely to find readers outside my own circle now because of the Twitter search feature.

I will share with you the article I read which explained Twitter Hash Tags to me. I give full credit to the site,  "Tech for Luddites" and the article, The Twitter Hash Tag: What Is It And How Do You Use It?

This article made things obvious to me. It was simple and in layman's terms. For hashtag protocalls see the related Twitter Help Article. 

(A Luddite is a member of any of various bands of workers in England (1811–16) organized to destroy manufacturing machinery, under the belief that its use diminished employment--I learn something new everyday.)

To Do: Create a free Twitter account if you don't have one. (When you choose your Twitter name, don't forget your "brand". I chose JenniferDiaries for obvious reasons.) If you already have an account, Tweet with a hash tag today! Keep it up at least weekly. Let me know how it works for you!

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
Fantasy Fiction Author
STARFIRE, book one of The Guardian Herd series, out 09/23/14 (HarperCollins)