On Twitter: The Difference Between @ and #

Posted 10 January, 2014 by Amanda / 15 Comments


If it’s one thing that Bout of Books brings up, it’s that many don’t understand the difference between @boutofbooks and #boutofbooks… or more broadly: the difference between a Twitter handle (@) and a Twitter hashtag (#).

And Bout of Books is perhaps more confusing because our handle and hashtag are the same. But a @ on Twitter leads to an actual person. A # is a search. So @-ing someone on Twitter is like picking up the phone and talking to someone. A # is like Googling.

We harp on this difference a lot during Bout of Books. Not because we’re assholes (at least not publicly), but because general updates that use our handle create more work for us*. Running a 700+ person read-a-thon is no small task, and if I can make my life easier by asking people to only use the hashtag unless they want to interact personally with me or Kelly, I will.

*It means I have more tweets to scroll through to locate questions people have asked. With Bout of Books as big as it is, these add up fast.

And that leads me to asking:

When you @ someone on Twitter, do you remember there’s a real person behind the screen who has to read and decide whether to respond to your tweet?

The @ mention on Twitter can be powerful. It gets you attention from your favorite bloggers and authors. It lets you know if people are tweeting about your giveaways or posts.

And it can also be extremely overwhelming.

How conscientious are you of the person behind the Twitter handle?

On Twitter, it’s easy to get caught up in the fun of being able to tweet our every thought and having our idols within easy reach. But just like not every thought needs to be voiced, not every tweet needs to mention someone. I’m not saying never mention someone. I’m not saying you’re wrong for mentioning someone.

I am, however, saying that learning about how a social network works and how to use it strategically is to your benefit.

When you use @boutofbooks, Kelly and I see it. When you use #boutofbooks, 700 people see it. Which gets more eyes on your tweet?

Filed under: Discussion,


15 Responses to “On Twitter: The Difference Between @ and #”

  1. Glad you posted about this! I’m sure there’s even twitter veterans that aren’t too sure what the difference is. And it will help out newer people too. I know I had to ask what the hashtags were when I first started and they became more popular.

    • When I want to talk to someone directly, I always start my tweet off with their handle. Sometimes I want to talk ABOUT someone (like Kelly), so I’ll leave the handle for the middle of the tweet so it goes to everyone. @-ing a publisher, for example, when you’ve reviewed a book they’ve sent you, can be pretty powerful, but it kinda goes back to what you’re using Twitter for: promotional or personal (or somewhere in between).

      Branded hashtags are actually really important and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to come up with ones of my own. I use #LeastRevision for webinars, for example, so people can follow along. I’ll likely have to come up with more for some of the events I have planned this year.

      • I don’t like copying a publisher or author on Tweets of my reviews but that is just a personal thing. It can be a great way of forming a relationship but I don’t want the fact that they might see it (and yes I know they many anyway) influence my review.

        I do the same thing if I am talking about someone–their name goes wherever it may pop up in the tweet. I just always assume that if I @ someone that might start a conversation. In other words, I use @ when I am willing to follow up if necessary :)

        I love branded hashtags, I have columns added to my tweetdeck for quite a few. It helps me track things without having to follow everyone involved and them getting lost in my twitter stream :)

        • UGH (and yes I know they may anyway)—proofread fail!

          Oh I have to say the thing with @ author/publishers also bleed over to me not joining street teams for the same reason. Street teams are a whole other discussion though :)

          • Street teams would be a good discussion. Because from a marketing standpoint, they can be really helpful. But they can also be hella annoying.

        • I generally don’t tweet authors my reviews, but that’s mainly because I know some authors don’t read (or want to read) their reviews, so it’s safer to assume all authors are that way.

  2. Such a good point Amanda! I would say I’m moderately aware of the person behind the handle, at least in terms of authors. With blogger friends I feel like I know them so our conversations are more casual, etc. With authors, I usually include them in the tweet of a review (provided it’s a positive review, I absolutely do not include them if I gave the book under 4 stars – “here’s a review of your book, I didn’t care for it! You’re welcome.” O.o), but I never expect them to respond. Sometimes they do and it’s awesome, but I try not to bombard anyone with excessive tweets:)

    • Another problem with mentioning is that you can get pulled into a conversation you’re not taking part in (and sometimes, not even care about). The @boutofbooks handle gets roped into conversations we’re not participating in, making it doubly difficult to find questions we need to answer.

      Ha. I agree about only mentioning an author if it’s positive. Though I’ve also found that some authors have a search set up so they know if their name is used. Tessa Dare found, followed, and retweeted me that way. I didn’t even use her handle.

  3. In the past, I’ve used the @ as more of a tag, to alert people to the thing I’m referring to. Directing followers to your profile (with your description and link to the website) will tell them more about what Bout of Books is than if they clicked on the hashtag. It wasn’t a matter of not knowing the difference, but I was ignoring the real people behind the handle. Needless to say, you and Kelly fixed that quickly.

    • Thanks for your perspective, Charleen, but we’ll continue advocating for the use of the hashtag only for a couple reasons:

      1. Because you’re more knowledgeable about Bout of Books, you teach newbies how to tweet about the readathon. While you know the difference between the handle and hashtag, others may not. If they follow your example, they’ll miss out on connecting with other readers.

      2. Including the handle requires more steps for people to get the information they need. People are more likely to sign up the easier it is for them, so eliminating distractions (like clicking on our profile to then get to our website) and getting straight to what they need (usually the sign up post) will net more readathoners.

  4. Thanks for writing this piece!! With nealy 800 followers, its clear to me few people REALLY understand the diff between @calling vs #googling.
    I refer to your piece when a user becomes abusive of @.

    . Very frustrating and this text, helpful!!!

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