In many ways, Twitter is its own language. Example:
It’s not a regular sentence, but it still has its own grammatical rules. RT, #, and @ signs are all part of the language, and, if not used correctly, can have an impact on your overall social reach. That said, I want to focus on one common problem that many of you probably see every day– the @ sign.
@ is like a big hello wave from across the street, or a shout out from across the park, or a calm, collected response to a question in a cafe. However, it cannot be all of these things at the same time. I suppose one can gesture a wave while shouting a cross the street “Hello!” But that action could never be considered a collected response in that cafe. Let me put this analogy into Twitter talk.
This tweet is a reply to @tamadear. @bmshirley’s followers will not see this on their timeline.
This tweet is a mention of @markgr. @markgr will receive a notification, and the followers of the tweeter, @EricStoller will receive this tweet in their timelines.
This difference is important to note as many tweeters turn this mere”difference” into a mistake.
“@SocialAllie is a great tweeter; everyone should follower her!”
The (imagined) tweeter decided that @SocialAllie (which happens to be me!) is awesome, and everyone should follow her. The problem is that only @SocialAllie will see this tweet; she will be very flattered, of course, but the tweeter won’t reach his/her target audience. If one person happens to be following both the tweeter and the recipient, they will see the tweet somewhere on the timeline, but unless everyone is following both of them, everyone will not see that tweet. Oops! The only way someone would see this tweet is if someone dug through the tweeter’s personal timeline– not ideal.
How to fix this mistake?
“I recommend following @SocialAllie! Great tweets!”
By putting the @username anywhere after the first character, this tweet will appear in your followers’ timelines– fixed! Another somewhat common approach is to put a period in front of the @username.
This tweet will reach The Boston Globe’s followers.
Personally, I avoid this unless it’s a matter of syntax/awkward phrasing.
Making yourself aware of this difference and practicing accordingly will make sure you are reaching your target audience. Comments? Questions?