twitter-logo-symbolsOne of the fastest ways to increase your brand awareness on Twitter is through the use of hashtags, mentions, and replies. Using them wrong, however, can not only make your brand look foolish and amateurish, but it can also be detrimental to your overall goal. So here's a crash course in @'s and #'s and how to use them properly:

Mentions

The @ is used to mention another Twitter user. It's effective because it notifies that person or brand that you've mentioned them which increases your chances of being noticed. It also will allow your tweet to show up in searches for that user, which improves your odds of engaging another user in conversation if they're interested in the same topic. The most crucial mistake I often see users make is assuming they know a person's Twitter handle without looking it up. For example, if I were to tweet at @MarkCuban, no one would see it-- because the famous entrepreneur's handle is actually @mcuban. I would always recommend a quick Google search to double-check your handles before posting them.

Replies

Replies are different from mentions in two distinct ways:

1) They are usually directed at somebody in response to a tweet, or to ask a question.

2) The @ is the very first character in the tweet. Last year, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines favoriting negative tweets aimed directly at him. Here's an example:

 

The tricky thing about replies is that they don't show up in most of your follower's feeds. Because you're sending a message "at" somebody, Twitter assumes your conversation isn't relevant to everybody and only displays it to people who follow both of you. Translation: Don't start a tweet with @ if you want everyone to see it. The way a lot of people get around this is by using a . in front of the Twitter handle. Here are some examples:

 

 

This negates the "reply" and shows the tweet in everybody's feeds. Hashtags

For an in-depth look at what hashtags are and how to use them, check out Why the Hashtag Will Never Die. For now, I'm just going to look at how they're different than mentions and replies and mistakes that people often make.

Hashtags are Not People Too- There is a major syntactical difference between @BarackObama and #BarackObama. Hashtags are used mostly for subjects, not proper nouns like people or places. For example, #business #socialmedia and #NFL are all conversations around topics, whereas @WarrenBuffett @Mashable and @nyjets are specific accounts that deal with those areas, respectively.

Know Your Hashtags- Whether you're at a conference or watching your favorite TV show, it's always great to join the conversation via social media. But before you do that, make sure you know what the hashtag is that most people are using. Granted, a lot of times there are numerous, but poke around a bit to see if you can find the most common. Knowing your hashtag ahead of time will help you reach the most number of people with the least amount of effort and put you immediately into the center of whatever conversation you're trying to join.  

There you have it. All of the nuts and bolts to the @'s and #'s. What did you learn? What did I miss?