Most of us as authors have more than enough to keep track of in the social media sphere without adding those dreaded hashtags. I mean what are they really? Do you really need them? What’s the best way to use them? Can you overdo it when it comes to hashtags? If you’re an author just beginning to use hashtags or thinking about using them then these questions have probably already crossed your mind. The truth is hashtags really aren’t all that difficult to use, the problem is making sure you use the right ones and to not overuse them.

So, what are hashtags anyway? In a nutshell hashtags are keywords with a # sign or hashtag in front of them. I’ll bet a light bulb just went off in your head, didn’t it? Most if not all authors whether they are fiction or non-fiction writers know what keywords are. If you don’t (heaven forbid), keywords are words used to indicate the content of a written piece. For example, you write an erotic romance that features shifters. A keyword that you could use would be, shifters. Want to take it one step further? Add a # sign in front of it and you’ve got a, you guessed it, a hashtag!

So, do authors really need hashtags? That would be a resounding YES! Do you want to sell books? Do you want to reach new readers? Do you want to get new followers? If you answered yes to even one of these then you should be using hashtags.

So, what’s the best way to get started with hashtags? What I suggest new and even seasoned authors do to get a feel for hashtags before they start actually using them is to create an account with Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck is an online Twitter tool that you can use to schedule tweets and (drum roll please) to see what people are posting to Twitter using particular hashtags. The thing is you don’t want to use a hashtag that no one else is using, at least not at first. If you do, you may as well be posting to an empty room. Since the idea of hashtags is to use them so new people can find your tweets and content, you want to start out at least using well established hashtags. Once you’ve increased your following a bit then you can think about creating your own hashtags for say a particular book. But this won’t be very effective if you don’t have a following already, so you’ve got to build up your following first. So, as I was saying sign up for an account at Tweetdeck. Once you have your account then go to the far left hand bottom of the page and click on the >> this will expand your screen a bit and you’ll see an option to “add a column” towards the top. Click on this and then the “search” option. Test out your first hashtag, let’s use #excerpt to start. You’ll see hundreds of tweets about excerpts that authors have posted links to on Twitter. Chances are you are not the only who will be searching for new authors this way. Try other hashtags that you feel will fit your genre, book or whatever. Do you write erotic romance? Try #eroticromance. I’ll bet you’ll see dozens of new authors you’ve never heard of before. Once you get a feel for the way authors are using hashtags in genres like yours, then test out a few tweets using well used hashtags that have keywords/hashtags that fit your books and genre. You’ll be getting new followers in no time, oh, and finding some new authors to read yourself as well.

That’s it! Everything you wanted to know about hashtags in a nutshell. Oh, and before I forget, be careful with hashtags. Try not to overuse them. I’ve seen authors who put four and five hashtags after a tweet. Keep hashtags to two or three per tweet. Remember, those hashtags count as characters and since you only get 140 characters per tweet, you don’t want to have nearly the whole tweet be hashtags.