Hi folks, my friend Lorraine from the Writers' Grapevine newsletter has commissioned me to produce a series of articles on the use of social media. Here is the first one - 'Hashtags: friend or foe?'
Let's have a think about how and why hashtags were created. For those new to the concept, hashtags are created by placing the '#' symbols in front of a group of letters.
Hashtags were first used on Twitter for ease of finding tweets with similar content such as #holidays, #Easter, #amreading and #sale.
When looking at your Twitter page, the most frequently-used tweets of the moment are displayed on the right, such as breaking news around the world, Donald Trump's toupee and Halle Berry posting a naked photo on Instagram. I like to look at these regularly to find out what is the big news on Twitter.
I tend to use hashtags from groups that I am in such as the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network #FSFNet, #ASMSG and #SciFiRTG. The groups you will join depend on your interests. I am a fantasy author, so I gravitate to like-minded (ie: weird hehe) individuals. These type of hashtags help promote the members of the group and increase your retweets and visibility together.
Other hashtags you can use are ones about a theme such as: #sale #Easter #fantasy. These are the ones that tweeps type in to look up tweets about that topic.
Remember that the goal of a tweet is to entertain / inform and most-importantly to engage. Also with a limited character count in a tweet, the less characters you can use, the more you have for other content.
As with anything in this world, a medium amount of use is good and it is very possible to go over the top with hashtag use. Hashtags come out in a different colour and make reading the tweet more difficult. The general industry consensus is that 3 is the upper limit for using hashtags. Many tweeps, myself included, will not retweet a tweet which exceeds 3 hashtags because these are seen as spam and inferior-quality tweets.
An example of overuse of hashtags: "Keep #pushing! Then hire an #editor. ;) #amwriting #amreading #amediting #Writegoal #WordCount"
Can you see how it fails to entertain or inform? It is just saying 'buy my service.'
Here is a better example: "Happy birthday Alijandra Have a fantastic day from the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network #FSFNet #birthday @AMogilner"
See how this one sends a message and can still be easily found using a hashtag.
Another issue with hashtags is when they appear for no particular reason, such as #noparticularreason #didntwanttogetoutofbedtoday #whatamigoingtowear. Can you see a practical use for these hashtags? How likely are they to be searched and to increase your social media reach? The answer is 'not likely.' They are usually just difficult to read and annoying and most experienced tweeters will ignore them.
Lastly, is there a place for hashtags on Facebook? Maybe. In my experience I have not seen them used appropriately, but there is potential for it. The usual ones I see on FB are by non-tweeters and they fall into the #toohardtodecipher category, which means that most people skim over and ignore them.
If you use a well-known hashtag such as #CharlieHebdo, you may get some traction if people see or search for it.
Twitter and FB are such different entities that different strategies are required for success.