Especially if you are new to the channel, social media can be confusing. A number of simple symbols allow you to tag users you know or contribute to conversations with people you don’t, unlocking significant communication and marketing possibilities.

But of course, that’s only true if you know how to use it. If you are a social media novice, consider this your guide on how to use a # or @ to engage in more strategic communications.

The Hashtag: #

In social media, you will hear the # symbol referred to as a hashtag. Simply put, it’s the easiest way to contribute to conversations other users may be having about a topic on the network.

For example, during this past season of Game of Thrones, millions of users shared their thoughts on plot twists and spoilers using #GameofThrones. Their Tweets, Facebook, and Instagram posts were seen by everyone else looking at the same hashtag.

Using this symbol only comes with a single rule: it has to consist of one word. You can turn any word into a hashtagged ‘topic,’ but it makes sense to first search the network you’re on to make sure other users are using it and you are actually contributing to a conversation.

The User Tag: @

Unlike the hashtag, which allows you to communicate with everyone on the network following a specific topic (even if they are not your followers or friends), the @ symbol lets you tag friends and users you know in your message.

When you use @ followed by the person’s user name (@UserName, for example), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social network sends a notification to the person you’ve tagged. They can now more easily engage with your post, not needing to have searched it out.

The specific rules of the @ symbol vary based on network. Facebook, for example, only lets you tag users you are friends with. Twitter, on the other hand, allows you to tag any of the millions of users on the network. However, if you begin a tweet with a tagged user rather than tagging the user in the middle of the post, that Tweet will not appear on your public timeline.

In short, # and @ are the two symbols you are most likely to use in your social media outreach. The next step, then, is learning how to strategically use them to better communicate on social media. And that’s where we come in! Contact us today to learn more about them, and become an expert on your social network of choice.