Twitter Basics–The Proper Care and Feeding of Hashtags

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 8.21.30 AM

Hashtags can quickly become a digital mouse plague. Image via news.com.au.

After my good friend Lisa Hall-Wilson used kidnapping and laser pointers to distract Kristen and take over her blog to talk Facebook, I knew Kristen would be wise to our Canadian tricks. So, I decided I’d try the opposite tactic when I wanted to come and talk to you about Twitter.

Bribery.

I brought along my Great Dane Luna to entertain the Spawn with rides and games of fetch…

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 8.14.09 AM

…which left Kristen free to take a much needed nap.

And you know what they say. While the cat’s asleep, the mice will talk Twitter hashtags…What? That’s not how it goes? Well, it is now. *points above* Or did you miss the size of my dog?

Where was I? Oh yes, hashtags. Twitter can be one of the best places for meeting new people and sending traffic to your blog, but not if you get arrested by the ASPCH (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Hashtags) first. As your friend, I can’t allow that to happen to you.

So at least until Kristen wakes up, I’m going to give you a little class in the proper care and feeding of hashtags.

As you may have already noticed, when you add a # in front of a word or phrase (with no spaces between the words), that creates a hashtag that is clickable and which people can search for.

To remind you how hashtags are used, here’s a little “Anatomy of a Tweet” diagram.

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 8.15.04 AM

When you put a hashtag in your tweet, that tweet is now seen by everyone who’s watching that hashtag, not just the people who follow you. Using hashtags and creating a column in TweetDeck (or a stream in Hootsuite) to follow them can introduce you to a whole new group of people you’d never have met otherwise.

Now that I’m sure you all know what a hashtag is, onward we go on how to care for them.

Don’t allow your hashtags to breed like tribbles.

This is a tribble.

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 8.15.46 AM

Cute, right? Looks a little like an angora guinea pig.

One tribble is cute, but they’re born pregnant, so if you don’t keep a close eye on them, you end up with this…

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 8.16.27 AM

Because we often hear about how great hashtags are, our tendency is to let them run rampant and breed like tribbles. Bad, bad hashtag owner.

Don’t use a #hashtag for #every #second #word within the #text of your #tweet. It gets really #annoying, you #look like a #spambot, and you make it #hard to #read. It’s okay to have a single hashtag in your tweet if you must, but limit it to one, and place the rest at the end.

You also don’t need to use every conceivable hashtag. Choose 1-3 good ones, and then trust your network to change them when they RT. That’s part of working together. Moreover, if you use more than three hashtags, Twitter considers this spam and you could end up with your account suspended. (See what I mean about the ASPCH coming after you!)

Clean your hashtags’ cages regularly.

Your hashtags live in columns/streams just like your bunny lives in a cage. And you know what happens if you don’t keep that cage clean? It starts to stink up the whole house, your bunny gets sick, and pretty soon no one will talk to you because you have a reputation for abusing your pets.

Don’t allow your hashtags to dirty up columns/streams any more than you’d allow your pets to live in a dirty cage.

When you re-tweet something, make sure you change the hashtags. If you don’t, you risk clogging up the column of anyone following the original hashtag. You also aren’t helping out the original tweeter as much as you could be if you got their tweet in front of a fresh audience through changing the hashtag.

Don’t include hashtags in the titles of your blog posts. Why? When people tweet your post from your blog or using Triberr, your title is what goes directly to Twitter. Which means…you guessed it—you clog up the column/stream of that hashtag. I cringe every time I see someone putting a hashtag in their title, and I consider calling the ASPCH myself.

If you’re scheduling tweets (even after reading this post by Kristen on the dangers of automation), never schedule two tweets in a row using the same hashtags. If you’re not going to be there to monitor the columns, you need to be extremely careful to spread out your hashtags so you don’t unintentionally clog up a slower moving hashtag column. Or better yet, don’t use hashtags at all.

Luna’s barking, and I think I hear Kristen waking up, so that means I have to turn the blog back over to her, but starting March 2nd, I’m teaching a month-long class on using Twitter to build your platform. Because I know everyone has different budgets, I’ve broken it down into two levels.

A Growing Tweeter’s Guide to Twitter (Bronze Level) – Each week you’ll receive 3-4 written lessons (full of screenshots). In addition to the written lessons, the class includes four live one-hour webinars in the WANA International Digital Classroom. 

A Growing Tweeter’s Guide to Twitter (Silver Level)You’ll receive everything from the Bronze Level and have access to a private WANATribe group where you’ll be able to discuss each lesson with other classmates and ask me whatever questions you might have about the lessons or anything else Twitter related.

Thanks for allowing me to visit with you here today, and I hope to see you in class!

***

Thanks, Marcy, but after WANACon, I think I need a longer nap, LOL.

We love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

Will announce February’s winner on Monday.

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  1. #1 by Marc Schuster on March 1, 2013 - 10:36 am

    Great advice! I’ve actually been wondering about hashtags and how to use them most productively for a while now, so this post is very helpful. Thanks!

  2. #2 by heathermarsten04 on March 1, 2013 - 10:44 am

    Thank you – I’m not that great of a Twitter person – I retweet, but haven’t had the courage to use hashtags yet. This is really helpful
    HM at HVC dot RR dot COM

  3. #3 by monicarodgers on March 1, 2013 - 10:51 am

    This advice is very useful and helps me understand a *little better but I could sure use a lesson!

    • #4 by Marcy Kennedy on March 1, 2013 - 10:53 am

      This is only a taste of what I cover in the class😉

  4. #5 by Being June on March 1, 2013 - 11:17 am

    I agree with heather (above). I’m a Twitter newbie and I feel like I’m learning a new language. I see now that I should really spend some time learning the ins-and-outs before I get all Twitter-crazy. Thanks for the tips!

  5. #6 by Nanny_cool on March 1, 2013 - 11:20 am

    I’m struggling with Twitter x

  6. #8 by Kathy L Wheeler on March 1, 2013 - 11:42 am

    I have to schedule tweets because I can’t access twitter from work during the day. This is very useful information. Thank you.

    • #9 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 1, 2013 - 12:27 pm

      Scheduling can work. But when we include hashtags it can create a nightmare and get our account deleted from Twitter. They will view it as spam, so we have to use extra caution.

    • #10 by Marcy Kennedy on March 1, 2013 - 1:37 pm

      Be very, very careful with anything you’re scheduling. It can turn into a real nightmare. Ten to fifteen minutes a day in the evenings actually spent on Twitter interacting with people is going to be much more valuable for you in the long run than scheduled tweets over the course of the day.

  7. #12 by Jenny Hansen on March 1, 2013 - 11:55 am

    Having taken Marcy’s class, I can tell you that I learned a ton. And I already thought I knew plenty about Twitter. Plus she holds your hand and gives you feedback. Sweet!

  8. #13 by danijace on March 1, 2013 - 12:19 pm

    Thank you Marcy! Finally, someone who explained hashtages to a Twitterlessly lost tweeter.🙂

  9. #14 by Wendi Anderson (@Wendi_Anderson) on March 1, 2013 - 12:28 pm

    Great advice, thank you! I am lucky enough to be married to a guy who works in the tech industry and he’s been a big help…but I need all the help I can get! I didn’t know to change the hashtags when I re-tweet. Luckily, I just started using Twitter recently, so hopefully I haven’t clogged up the pipes too much!

  10. #15 by M T McGuire on March 1, 2013 - 12:51 pm

    I didn’t understand any of the stuff about columns but the rest of that was very useful. I don’t have tweetdeck or hootsuite though. My twitter feed has one column and if I want to look at a hashtag I do a search and all the posts with that hashtag come up. But I’ll remember to take the hashtags off anything that I re-tweet from now on.

    Cheers

    MTM

    • #16 by Marcy Kennedy on March 1, 2013 - 1:45 pm

      On TweetDeck and Hootsuite, you’re able to add multiple columns. I recommend people use one or the other because it makes for an easier, better experience on Twitter, especially once your Twitter reach grows. TweetDeck now offers a desktop application or an online version. Both TweetDeck and Hootsuite are free to use.

  11. #17 by Paige on March 1, 2013 - 1:35 pm

    I appreciated this twitter information since it was so geared toward my writer-brain. Thanks!

  12. #18 by Natalie Aguirre on March 1, 2013 - 2:12 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I’m not on twitter yet so this is really helpful.

  13. #19 by Diana Stevan on March 1, 2013 - 2:40 pm

    I learned some new things re: hashtags. Thanks for that.

  14. #20 by MaLinda Johnson on March 1, 2013 - 3:30 pm

    Funny post, good info!😀

    • #21 by MaLinda Johnson on March 1, 2013 - 3:31 pm

      I also love your Great Dane! She’s beautiful.

      • #22 by Marcy Kennedy on March 1, 2013 - 3:42 pm

        Thanks🙂 She’s my constant writing companion. She sleeps. I write😉

  15. #23 by Janet Sketchley on March 1, 2013 - 3:56 pm

    I didn’t know to change/delete the hashtags on a RT. Thanks, Marcy! My follow-up question is, if doing that is still a RT, what constitutes a MT (modified tweet) — is that if we have to re-word the original to keep within the character count?

  16. #24 by danielocceno on March 1, 2013 - 4:26 pm

    Like FACEBOOK, I do not have a TWITTER account. I guess; I am still in the medieval days of technology with just an E-Mail account. I belong to a couple of group loops and I try to comment on news articles. But I am not a social media butterfly, yet. Thank you for the information. It is always about the future. When the future becomes the present, I have more understanding on what to do, “Dahil Sa Iyo” (Because of You).

  17. #25 by Jess Witkins on March 1, 2013 - 5:17 pm

    I LOVE this post and found it really helpful! I was worried about cluttering up some hashtags because there’s only a few I see used consistently but this challenges me to search out others. Thanks Marcy!

  18. #26 by mummylovestowrite on March 1, 2013 - 7:07 pm

    This was good advice. I have been mindful of my use of hashtags, but wasn’t sure how many were considered ‘Spam’ – very helpful info, thank you.

  19. #27 by Karen McFarland on March 1, 2013 - 8:29 pm

    Thank you Marcy for such an great post. Whew, I think I’m doing okay? I try to switch up the hash-tags in the RTs to spread the blog love. I just don’t get onto Twitter as much as I should. I am just spread too thin and want to crawl back into a hole. LOL! Oh, I think I’ll go pop on there now. Thanks my friend!🙂

  20. #28 by ShineMine on March 1, 2013 - 9:55 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing and bringing clarity to tweeting.

  21. #29 by Elle Carter Neal on March 1, 2013 - 11:10 pm

    I think I’m following the wrong crowd on Twitter:-/ I try to engage with people but nobody seems to respond; they all just seem to use it as an announcement platform. I’ve only once had a proper interaction with someone.

    I had a question about Marcy’s (excellent) retweeting advice: There is a button on Twitter to “Retweet” (which I find useful), but it doesn’t allow changes to the content. How do you change the hashtags? Do you copy and paste into a new tweet rather than use the auto-retweet option?

  22. #31 by Susan Jenkins on March 2, 2013 - 9:12 am

    I’ll try the #mywana stream once I successfully master the columns (info from WANACon slowly sinking in). Is there a big difference accessing by mobile phone vs desktop?

  23. #32 by Janis Cox on March 2, 2013 - 10:31 am

    Thanks Marcy,
    I certainly didn’t know about “When you re-tweet something, make sure you change the hashtags.” mmm one more thing to remember.
    I am already working with someone this month which is pretty intense or I would love to join the Twitter School.
    Blessings,
    Janis http://www.janiscox.com

  24. #33 by Janis Cox on March 2, 2013 - 10:34 am

    Oh I went to #mywana – why does #wana1012 come up on the list?
    Janis http://www.janiscox.com

    • #34 by Diana Beebe on March 4, 2013 - 8:38 pm

      Hi, Janis! The #wana1012 hashtag is one that Kristen’s Blogging for Brand class of October 2012 uses to hang out (so other classes use their month and year for their hashtags) and get comfortable on Twitter. You can come say hi to us, too, if you want.🙂

  25. #35 by Bob Sanchez on March 2, 2013 - 11:25 am

    Thanks for the informative post. I’ve been tweeting a lot and realize I’ve been overusing hashtags.

  26. #36 by Ginger Calem on March 2, 2013 - 2:08 pm

    Great post, Marcy! I enjoy Twitter and love learning more and more about it. I smiled when I saw my name in your screen shot example. 🙂 Thanks!

  27. #37 by danielocceno on March 2, 2013 - 4:38 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I think; it was Kristen, who wrote about Social Media benefits the Non-Fiction writers more than the Fiction writers. I write fiction. She continued. It is good to have a product first to pitch, to the the human race. When I was trying to get published with picture books for children, I noticed that a celebrity could publish one and the publisher ignored if their persona would affect the publishing house’s marketplace. Facebook and Twitter could make someone an instant celebrity on the Internet enough to get a “big time” publisher like you read about or see on a Cable TV worldwide news program of how a You Tube self-made music video got a recording contract for some “no name” singer and a big name signer promoted a start-up. I really like what you ladies are doing. But like in college I had to buy a fraternity shirt in my no money budget so the sorority ladies who got mad that I was too cheap to ask them out and to take them to a nice and an expensive restaurant: I really do not have the money. They dated guys (taller and better looking) who drove corvettes and the better athletes belonged to exclusive country clubs. I guess; I can ask my mother for the money, but right now I can only afford to learn from the E-Newsletter sent VIA the blog. Thank you for caring. Social Fraternal Orders still haunt me, after more than 30 years.

  28. #38 by marsharwest on March 2, 2013 - 7:24 pm

    This was very helpful, Marcy, but I’m only a hair above the folks who never tweet. Recently I’ve taken to retweeting some things, but you say change the hashtags. ??? What do you mean? How? I sure don’t want to mess something up for someone, when I’m just trying to be friendly and supportive. Help!

  29. #39 by roe2me on March 2, 2013 - 9:50 pm

    Thanks for the tips and warnings on hashtag pitfalls. I’m far from an expert so this post was very helpful.

  30. #40 by Ashley Martin on March 4, 2013 - 9:35 am

    I love Twitter and the ability to interact with so many people. It’s a great way to get a peek into the world of some of my favorite authors and learn from those in the writing world. Thanks for the tips!

    • #41 by Gry Ranfelt on July 6, 2014 - 12:25 am

      It’s also a great way to peek into the world of people who are totally different than yourself. I follow fashion haulers though I have no interest in fashion but it’s so interesting to watch their culture.

  31. #42 by Diana Beebe on March 4, 2013 - 8:42 pm

    Thanks, Marcy. I needed the hashtag advice–I didn’t know about changing them on retweets either.

  32. #43 by cairnr on March 5, 2013 - 3:43 pm

    Good article, I learned very much that I started applying right away. I’ve commented and linked you my dear, are there enough hats for all my entries??

  33. #44 by catherinelumb on April 12, 2013 - 4:58 pm

    Hi Kristen,

    I adore your blog and have used these articles as a ‘Starter Guide’ for my joining of Twitter last week.

    I am, however, having an issue – any link that I post with an accompanying hashtag doesn’t show in that hashtag’s feed.

    I’m come to realise that new users aren’t supported when it comes to including links and hashtags in one tweet (from this discussion here: https://dev.twitter.com/discussions/9620) and only long-time, trusted ‘Tweeps’ are permitted to post BOTH links and hashtags in one Tweet.

    Can you advise how, as a new user, I might go about building a platform on Twitter if I can’t share links to other useful sites (your own included)

    Thanks,
    @Cat_Lumb

  34. #45 by Gry Ranfelt on July 6, 2014 - 12:24 am

    MARCH? That’s a long time from now😄
    Cute dog!

    Oh Twitter. My nemesis. I’ve gotten better at it, and it’s fun, but damn I think it’s hard. New social rules to figure out. Come on! I spent 19 years figuring out the regular rules and I’m still not very good at those!

  35. #46 by Janet Rosa on April 13, 2015 - 3:48 pm

    I am late to the party, but this really does put Twitter into perspective for me, thanks again.

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