If you’ve started to use Twitter to promote your small business, you may have asked yourself, “why do I keep seeing “@” signs in other people’s tweets?” And “What are hash tags and bit.ly?”
Here’s a very quick primer on these often-used Twitter techniques.
The @ Sign
The @ sign is used to indicate a Twitter username. It allows you to reply directly to someone else’s tweet. For example, if you wanted to reply directly to one of Self-Counsel’s tweets, you could do something like this:
@selfcounsel I have read your latest book on starting a business and it has been invaluable
The @ symbol is required to avoid confusion. It has become standard to write usernames on Twitter this way. Let’s say your username was just “sarah”. If someone wanted to refer to you in their tweet, they would have to write “@sarah” otherwise Twitter won’t recognize it as a username.
I now understand how to use Twitter like a pro, thanks @sarah!
Hash tags are used to identify common subjects in your tweets that other people can then search for. For example, if you see a word or a name that has the # mark before it, that’s a “hash tag.” So let’s say you are really interested in what other people are tweeting about Patrick Swayze. Many people on Twitter are using the hash tag #patrickswayze in their posts just to make it easier for others to find posts on Patrick Swayze when searching Twitter.
Where do hash tags come from? They are really just made up by Twitter users. There is no official list from Twitter. You can make up your own just by entering one in your posts. For example, if you run a coffee business, use the hashtag #coffee in your posts. People interested in coffee are more likely to find your tweets if you do.
Since Twitter only allows 140 characters per tweet, there isn’t a lot of room for long URLs. If you want to post a link to an interesting website, sometimes that URL can take 50 or more characters alone.
You can use a service like bit.ly to shorten the URL for you. To do that, just go to bit.ly, enter the URL you want shortened, and it will give you a new, much shorter, URL. Post that URL in your tweet. When readers click on it, it will redirect them to the actual long URL.
That way, you still have lots of characters left to type with in your tweet.
And while we’re on the subject of Twitter, please follow our Twitter account if you aren’t already.