Twitter Guide For Authors & Illustrators > The Basics > What are the "#" symbols for? (or "What's a hashtag?")
Index of topics: Main Twitter Guide For Writers & Illustrators page. To go back to my blog for kidlit/YA writers and illustrators, see Inkygirl. You can find me on Twitter at @inkyelbows (focus: writing and illustrating children's books) and @DebbieOhi (livetweets, chat, photos, personal ramblings). Also see my list of Other Useful Twitter Guides For Authors And Illustrators and Twitter Lists of: agents who represent kidlit/YA, kidlit/YA editors, children's book art/creative directors and K-12/teen librarians on Twitter.
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Q. What are the "#" symbols for? (or "What's a hashtag?")
The "#" symbol is called a hashtag in Twitter. From the Twitter Help Center:
The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.
If you post a public tweet with a hashtag, then anyone searching for that particular hashtag could come across your tweet. A third-party service has created Hashtags.org, where you can search for information about hashtags.
DON'T OVERUSE HASHTAGS. Tweets that use more than a couple of hashtags tend to come across as spammy. When I'm skimming a feed, I usually skip over any tweet that is more hashtag than real content.
Be aware that often a hashtag is being used for a particular conference, event or meme. Adding that hashtag to your book promo tweet is sort of like butting into someone else's conversation at a party and redirecting that conversation to yourself. As Persnickety Snark says in How To Avoid Becomiing A Tweeting Leper, "Be part of the conversation but know that the conversation doesn't have to centre on you."
Some people declare they'll never use hashtags. I use them sometimes, but usually only if the hashtag is unique enough to make it useful. It's why I don't add general hashtags like #kidlit or #books.
Some use #hashtags for humor. It works if you ARE funny/clever but if you aren't, it just comes across as sort of lame. I'm pretty sure that I'd fall in the "sort of lame" camp, so I avoid hashtag humor in my own tweets and envy those who CAN pull it off.
Hashtags are essential in Twitter chats. See my Twitter Chats For Writers tips.
Last updated on February 26, 2014 by Debbie Ridpath Ohi