Hashtag ‘How-to’ for beginners

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Hashtag ‘How-to’ for beginners

Hashtags have long been used as a way to add humour to social media posts (OMG I just got to work and realised that I forgot to take my slippers off! #embarassed), which is a great way to add your voice to posts. But how can publicists and authors use hashtags to promote their book/competition or to engage current and new readers/followers?

The hashtag first began at Twitter HQ, but has spread across to other social media platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest. In 2007, developer Chris Messina suggested in a tweet that Twitter begin grouping topics using the hash symbol. Twitter initially rejected the idea. But in October 2007, citizen journalists began using the hashtag #SanDiegoFire to tweet updates on a series of forest fires happening in San Diego. The practice of ‘hashtagging’ took off; now users and brands use hashtags to cover serious political events (#Cairo) and entertainment topics (#MileyCyrus) alike.

Follow our tips below to use hashtags to your advantage, whether you're a publicist or author looking to increase engagement or your status:


On Twitter, the hash symbol (#) turns any word or groupofwords into a clickable link. This allows you to organise your content into sub-categories (#Fiction, #Thriller, #ReadingList) and track discussion topics based on those keywords. So, if you wanted to post about your latest book, you could include #NewBook in your tweet to join similar conversations. Click on your hashtag to see all posts that mention that particular subject in real time.


Facebook, believe it or not, only started supporting hashtags in 2013, and so far, has not seen the same impact as Twitter. Nevertheless, clicking on Facebook hashtags will take you directly to a list of other people’s posts containing the same hashtag. The results are not limited to people you know, but to EVERYONE on Facebook. Avoid hashtags such as ‪#‎BookGiveaway & ‪#‎competition, as these are considered “spammy” on FB (however, they are dynamite on Twitter and Instagram!).


Hashtags can be used to sort and organise your photos. For example, an author can collate his/her images of certain books using the same tag (e.g. #MrSmithFictionBooks) and when you click on that tag, all your photos will appear in one feed a bit like an album. Use tags on Instagram to help you discover new accounts and pick-up followers. Some hashtags were created specifically for Instagram photo challenges. #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT, for example, encourages users to post retro photos of times gone by (perhaps jog followers’ memories of a successful press opportunity you had with a great image of your book).


Use hashtags on Pinterest to mark your pins and search for content. Click on the hashtag in a pin description to find pins that contain the exact same hashtag.

Hashtag Do's and Don’ts

  • Spaces between words are a big NO-NO. DO use several words or sentences but be sure to join words together such as #socialmedia
  • Caps lock does not affect tags so; #socialmedia will produce the same results as #SocialMedia
  • Numbers are allowed (#2for1) but symbols such as: ! ? , / are not
  • DO use relevant tags for your posts. Tagging #summerishere on a post about a crime thriller isn't directly linked or specific enough. Instead try posting “#CoolDown with this epic #Thriller’ or #SummerReads. Using tags that are not relevant can actually lead you to being noted as a spammer, so be careful to stay on target & relevant
  • DON'T use more than 2 or 3 tags per post. Again, you run the risk or being pegged as a spammer if too many tags or links are included. The same goes if you repeat a tag twice (e.g Love my new #Book. Check out my #Book online)

Not sure which hashtags to use to gain followers across social media platforms? Check out Hashtags.org to see which tags are popular in real time.

So, there's a few ways in which to use hashtags effectively. We hope it allows you to get tagging like a pro, and collect more followers along the way!