The Author's Guide to #Hashtags

If you have been on social media for any amount of time, you might have seen someone #includesomethingthatlookslikethis in a post that is long and doesn't seem to make much sense. This is called a hashtag. But I'll let you in on something - hashtags aren't actually meant to look like that. They are actually a very important component to your social media presence.

Why? Because hashtags actually have a purpose. 

What a hashtag does is make terms, events, promotions, products, books, etc., searchable on social media. They help categorize and organize content as well as track discussion topics based on key words.

For example, let's say you were attending a conference called Writer's Weekend. Their hashtag might be something like #WritersWeekend. You could search for posts using that hashtag to connect with others, find more information, etc. You could also use the hashtag in your own posts to make sure your Tweets and posts were more visible. 

Twitter used to be the only outlet where hashtags were relevant, but now they are also used on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+, so you know they must be important! 

There are a few rules and guidelines to put into practice to make sure you are getting the most out hashtags: 

1) Use Hashtags Sparingly 

Have you ever seen a post like this: 

If #you had to #change your #social #media #approach to make it #successful, would #you? Would you #drop #Facebook or #Twitter?  

Hashtag overload! You absolutely don't want to do that. The key is to use 2-3 hashtags at most that are relevant to your post. For example, picking social media, Facebook, and Twitter would be good hashtags for the post above. 

2) Choose Your Hashtag Carefully 

You've probably seen people use hashtags to make something funny or #justrandomlytossingwordstogether. This is not the way to use hashtags to make the impact that you need to stand out online. 

There are tools available like or that help you find popular hashtags as well as what is trending to make sure more people see your posts. Make sure that you use hashtags that people will actually use and search for to make your posts more visible. 

For example, if I wrote a blog post on social media strategies, I'd use #socialmedia and #strategies in my post. That way people where researching posts on those topics could easily find them. 

3) Research Your Hashtags 

About a year ago we had a client use a hashtag which they didn't research before using. They thought it was a hashtag that would direct fans to their special event. Little did they know this hashtag was already being used by an online dating service. 

Make sure you go to the social media outlet you are using and search if your hashtag is already in use. This will certainly help you avoid embarrassing situations!

4) Keep It Simple 

When you have a simple hashtag it's easier to remember. For example, Dancing With The Stars has #DWTS - easy peasy. Get creative! 

The key to using hashtags is to make sure you are using the correct hashtag at the right time. In your social media strategy, create unique hashtags for your writing, book launch, book signings, etc., to help categorize your posts. And use general or popular hashtags to take part in online conversations to draw attention to your posts. 

TAKE ACTION NOW: In the comments below, share with us two or three hashtags that you will use to help promote your book, event, or services. We'd love to hear how you are using them to grow your fan base!