Just to be fair, let me point out that a good chunk of my content today is coming from other sources. I started at a blog entry by Jenny Hansen (@jhansenwrites) and followed links she included in that entry. Until I was copy/pasting her blog link, I didn't realize she had just posted that this past weekend. I feel like I'm riding on her coattails a bit with this but honestly, I just saw it yesterday when I was searching out posts on branding for yesterday's Monday Marketing, Author Branding: What Kind of Business Are You?
Although she focuses her branding discussion more on the image on your book's cover, I believe Author branding is more about the image of the Author in the prospect's mind, regardless of the picture on the front of the book. The great covers ain't bad neither though.
In any case, I'm glad I stumbled upon the Writers in the Storm (#WITS) site, because (a) hey, great site and (b) I noticed she has a bunchaton of great Twitter stuff, so I saved the link. More below.
What is a Hashtag?
Let's review quickly, just for yucks and grins. You take a hash or pound sign (#) and immediately follow it with a word or series of words, the whole thing together, no spaces. Like #thisuselessexample. That's a hashtag. It's a hash followed by what is, essentially, a tag. Yes, it seems, everywhere you go in the Indie Author world these days, you need to know what a tag is and how to use them. Twitter's no different than Amazon. Your tagging habits should be relevant to you and your content--or your brand or intended brand.
Since #thisuselessexample would only be useful if others also put that hashtag into their tweets, thus bringing you all into one conversation together, I'll go over a few useful "Writerly" hashtags. Remember, the point of Twitter is to Join the Conversation, not to blast the world with your spam. Did you watch the video in yesterday's Author Branding post? Buy my book! Buy my book! is not a conversation (nor a hashtag) you want to create.
Only The Bestest Hashtags in the World
The number one question I get asked whenever I mention hashtags, is which ones are the "best" to use? I think the answer is, whichever ones are most relevant to you and the brand you're trying to build. My @webbiegrrl brand is not the same as your brand, is it? So my tags will be different. For that matter, I currently maintain two entirely separate writing personas and to be honest, Marjorie "Friday" Baldwin, the SciFi gal (@phoenicianbooks) doesn't really use hashtags but I think she has a stronger brand already. Friday's only been online since June of 2011. Webbiegrrl Writer was created back in 2003. I think Friday probably benefitted by Webbiegrrl's lessons learned and that accounts for the speed with which I was able to build a "Phoenician Series" brand.
The best answer I can give you is use whichever hashtags interest you. The point of using a hashtag is to get into a conversation with other people who want to discuss that topic. If you don't really want to hear about #KimKardashian, then you probably shouldn't use that hashtag in your posts. If you don't want to talk about her but she is somehow key to your brand, sorry, but you should probably invite other Kimmy fans to tweet their squees at you by using that hashtag.
Hashtagging Can Be Work AND Fun
Recall Jeremy Rodden (@toonopolis) talked about Toonopolis Secrets to Twitter Success in the most-recent Twitter Series entry. He noted that he uses the hashtag #CartoonQuotes because he wants to build a brand as an expert on cartoons. Get it? Toonopolis, cartoons, #CartoonQuotes content expert? He has fun doing the research for the tweet content because it's a topic which interests him and it serves his work goals because each time he uses #CartoonQuotes in a tweet, it furthers his brand efforts. A little later, I'll talk about composing your tweets with your brand in mind, but for now, just figure out how you want to brand yourself and start looking around Twitter for like-minded people.
Once you've decided how you want to brand yourself, you can come up with some hashtags that will be useful to you. Be sure to type them into the Twitter search box (every app has one) and see if anyone else is even using it. If there don't seem to be many interesting or relevant (to you) tweets in the search results for that hashtag, try another variation. That's how you find an existing conversation to join. Via the hashtag. It's like....magic. ^_^
There are specific hashtags that writers (Indie Authors and other writers) use to get themselves attached to conversations with other writers. Jenny covered a few in her post (scroll down towards the end of the post and she has a great list. She also has a link to Simon Kewin's (@simonkewin) list 40 Twitter Hashtags for Writers. Below is my list of my favorites--and some I want to warn you about if you're new to this game.
#amediting and its corollary #amwriting – I think these are self-explanatory. I seem to be using one or the other of these a lot when composing my tweets lately and yet, I don't tend to converse with others about writing or editing. I think I'm doing it wrong (grin)
Jenny suggests you might also enjoy http://amwriting.org/. I'd caution you to remember that how you use a hashtag is as important as the fact you're using it. Hanging out with other writers is great fun, but does it further your brand? Probably not. Spend some but not all of your time with this hashtag.
#reading - This marvelous hashtag is auto-inserted into the auto-tweets done by Goodreads whenever you update your status on a book or shelve/move a book to a new shelf (at least whenever you tick the box to tweet your updates, it is; highly advise ticking that box on the Goodreads site). It's also good to include when you're tweeting with book bloggers, when you ask them what they're #reading now. It's a means of having a conversation while doing passive marketing for your book blogger tweep. (hint hint)
I've personally taken to using a "tagline" (pun intentional) i #amwriting r u #reading? which I was kind of hoping to claim as my own in an @webbiegrrl branded sort of way. I don't think it will catch on though, since "@webbiegrrl" isn't the topic of either of those hashtags. I just thought it was a nifty little combination. I'm still going to try to attach it to @webbiegrrl's tweets ^_^
#nanowrimo - Speaking of hanging out with other writers, here's the exception to the rule. Every year, from November 1-30, writers around the world gather at http://www.nanowrimo.org/ to see if they can churn out 50,000 words in those particular 30 days. Since it is the time of the American holiday season start, it's a crazy time. Unhindered by the American Thanksgiving holiday, the Brits definitely are gaining on us in the overall numbers.
Be sure to follow Debbie Ridpath Ohi (@inkygirl) for your daily dose of Writer- or Nano-themed Will Write for Chocolate comics (like the one included here) during November. She makes great comics year round, but during Nanowrimo, especially, her wry humor helps make it all feel a little less like solitary confinement and a little more like a worldwide writers' group. Bring your own chocolate or the dog gets it.
#askAgent - Agents hang out here and answer questions (or try to drum up business; careful!) Also be sure you can corroborate that the person answering your questions is actually an agent and not just claiming to be one. Look them up in Writers Beware to be sure they haven't been blacklisted already. I enjoy reading the questions and answers. Yes, I lurk.
#askEditor - This hashtag gets its highest activity on Fridays. This one kind of bugs me. It sends my scammer radar up with clanging bells and high-pitched whistles. Here, you'll find people claiming to be Editors (loose term) available to answer questions. As I lurk and read this conversation in silence, I see what appears to me to be somewhat green writers trusting self-proclaimed experts. Not only are a lot of the questions posed by people new to writing, but new to the very idea of being in business for themselves. My heart aches for their clean and shiny newness. I don't hate Editors, honest! I just dislike scammers. Intensely. I worry about these strangers who hang out on this hashtag and the Preditors and Editors who'll be feeding off of them.
Here's the deal. Not only could the term "Editor" refer to someone working in an actual publishing house, it could also refer to someone just like you looking to make a buck by scamming fellow wannabes. They might offer to do line-editing (also known as proofreading) your work and end up taking your money to do nothing but read your book and make unsolicited comments on it. They might even convince you that their "advice" is valuable and you should pay extra for it.
The term "Editor" could also refer to someone doing freelance work and actually helping writers trim their work for pacing or smoothing out plotting issues. All in all, treat this like you would the #askAgent chats. Ask questions and get answers but corroborate the answer's source before taking it as "truth." Be smart. Having a conversation is one thing; hiring someone who talks a good talk based on a Twitter exchange is quite another.
As was the case above, there's a site where you can check for blacklisted "Editors" aptly named Preditors and Editors. It's an awful looking site that hasn't changed appearance since about 1997 when they created it, but the content is updated often. If you don't see the name you want to investigate, ask them and they might help you check it out.
#selfpublishing - This is the place for questions and answers about the business of being an Indie Author. The danger here, of course, is that your tweets using this hashtag are focused on your "back of house" not on your brand. Hanging out with other writers is useful, even necessary, but twitter may not be the best place to come out half-dressed, still figuring out the buttons, eh?
I really liked the list of "chat" style hashtags that Simon has at the end of his 40 Twitter Hashtags for Writers list, though I haven't actually joined any of them yet. As noted, these chat style hashtags are only active at specific times. My schedule these days is so overfull, I really don't have the flexibility to pop into chatrooms, though I'd like to try one out sometime if I get some of that, what's it called? You know, it's like unicorns, mythological but some people claim that it exists. Oh yeah, now I remember what it's called Free time. There really is such a thing and it really doesn't cost people who have it anything at all. Okay, stop laughing, you karmicly-informed person, you!
Jenny had a link to another great resource for all things Twitter hashtaggy, @Tagalus or on the web http://tagal.us/. They have a nice search box where you can find tags related to specific topics. And yes, over there on the right side of the screen is a box where you can enter a new tag and define it yourself. That will register your new hashtag with Tagalus, but unless or until you and others start using the new hashtag, it doesn't really exist. You don't need to use the Tagalus form to create a hashtag.
Rolling your Own
You didn't see the hashtag you wanted in the list above or any of the linked sites? Geez, how much more do you want? (grin) You can create a hashtag by simply using it in a tweet. If your tweeps use it to reply to you, then it starts to spread. This is how the hashtag concept was born in the first place, organically. Users just started putting hashtags into their tweets and others started using them to reply and voila! a conversation was born. You can create a new conversation just as easily. Just do it.
Here's one I just had to come back and edit in (hope it makes it before Networked Blogs pulls the feed!) #BeNicholsonsAgent. Click on that and find out more. Did Scott Nicholson (@hauntedcomputer) tap into the power of hashtags or what? ^_^
I was going to get into a whole discussion tying your tweet content into your brand--or rather, using your tweet content to build a brand--but I think this post is long enough already so I'll hold that topic over for next week's Tues Tip, and another entry in the ongoing Twitter Series that I really thought would be done after just 3 entries, beginning, intermediate and advanced. Shows you what I know!