Memes, Hashtags and Chats, Oh My!

By Rachel Thompson

Twitter can be a bit insider-ish, what with all the terms. Daily people ask me ‘Why bother with hashtags?’ ‘What’s a meme (rhymes with theme)?’ and ‘What’s a Twitter Chat anyway?’ All are crucially important for authors.photo (17)

Let’s deconstruct.

#HASHTAGS

I love hashtags. I love them so much I’ve even used them in my first two books. I think I actually dream in hashtags at this point. Some tips:

  • # is shorthand for hashtag. In real life, it’s a number sign. On Twitter, it’s a hashtag (just go with it already. Even Facebook and Google+ recognize hashtags now!) Whenever you use one, whatever you put immediately after it WITH NO SPACES becomes a hyperlink. So, let’s say you’re interested in participating in a weekly meme (i.e., #MondayBlogs, where you share blog posts on Mondays and retweet others). Using the # with the words MondayBlogs means you can now search on others using that hashtag — virtually connecting with a community. In addition, people who search on that hashtag find YOU.
  • Not sure which hashtag you may be interested in using? Look at other tweets! Some popular hashtags for writers specifically: #amwriting #amreading #MondayBlogs #fridayreads #WW (aka #WriterWednesday) and #FF (#FollowFriday). I personally like to connect with readers so I search on terms like #bookclub or #bookworm. You’ve probably seen these words with the # in front and had no idea what or how to participate, right? Now you know!
  • Hashtags can be used randomly in a tweet, to see and/or comment on what’s trending (trends are listed on the left hand side and on the #Discover tab), or for a weekly chat (more below).
  • Hashtags connect people in ways tweets cannot, particularly during breaking news. There are millions of tweeps and millions upon millions of tweets daily. A hashtag like #TwitterNoise or #BostonMarathon can connect people in incredible ways.
  • Some people use hashtags totally wrong and that’s just part of it. For example, people have started using #MondayBlogs every single day — even though the meme is only on Mondays. What can you do? Laugh and move on.

MEME

This is one of those Internet words people will forever pronounce incorrectly, yet it’s soooo simple. Meme means theme, and it rhymes with it also. Easy, right? More facts:

  • A meme and a hashtag CAN be the same thing, but not always. For example, #MondayBlogs is both a weekly meme and a hashtag. However, you can hashtag ANYTHING #youcanhashtaganything — one of the fun freedoms of Twitter — but nobody else may have used that hashtag so when you click on it (remember, adding # creates a hyperlink), you’ll see only your own tweet.
  • An actual meme can take many forms: a hashtag as I mentioned but also can be a link to a website, a picture, or an image (Grumpy Cat).
  • Honestly, you could study memes for years. Here’s much more info!
  • Using memes as an author is most helpful in searching for readers and connecting.

CHATS

Chats are typically weekly (sometimes monthly), and always at the same time (#DadChat is always Thursdays at 6pm PST; for a full listing of chat, google or check out The TweetChat Schedule. Some tips:

  • Many people forget to include the hashtag (i.e., #blogchat) in their tweet and that’s a problem. Why? You need to include the hashtag to participate in the chat! You can be tweeting on and on about your brilliant blog strategy for the entire #blogchat hour but none of the other participants will see it because you forgot to use the hashtag!
  • Third-party apps. The good news? There are easy to use third-party applications to help you out: Twubs or TweetChat (newly purchased and revamped by OneQube) allows you to sign in with your Twitter credentials, enter the hashtag ONCE, and off you go, into your chat. These apps take you to a different screen than Twitter, but still keeps you logged in. Try it and see. I promise, it’s soooo easy.

Hopefully this clarifies some of your questions about the difference between the three terms. Keep in mind that you don’t want to abuse hashtags or memes — one hashtag per tweet is plenty and when you join in a chat or meme, it’s to connect with others, not sell your stuff. Social media is about relationship building, after all!

Any questions, ask away!

 

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