Hashtags vs Mentions – are you super confused?

I recently met a client because she wanted to brainstorm with me and ask some of my advice on her ideas. She was in her new marketing manger role for a few months and was beginning to regain control of the spiralling budgets, disorganisation and general madness of a company that had grown a bit too fast without any plan.

We had been discussing ideas for a little while, laying down timelines and plans for what could be, then her tone suddenly changed. “I’m really embarrassed about this, but I need you to explain something to me”, she was blushing and speaking in hushed tones. Looking around and over her shoulders, she quietly asked: “I don’t really know what a hashtag or those ‘at’ thingies do, or why we are using them.” I laughed with relief, “Christ, I thought you were going to ask me where babies come from!”.

Questioning her a little further, I was able to see that her confusion was well founded and that the internet had failed to explain this properly to her. This confusion was further compounded by the fact that each platform’s culture treats hashtags slightly differently. When I began to discuss this with other clients and colleagues, I quickly discovered that loads of other people were suffering from the same difficulties. So, I decided that I would answer the so-called “stupid question” (I don’t think it is by the way) and put this thing to bed.

Mentions or Tagging a Person or Business on Social Media

Across all platforms, mentions are the same really. Essentially they are used to give notice or credit to a specific person. This can be done in a post or in a comment and if you are using a Facebook business page, remember you can mention any other business page but, you can only mention people who are following your Facebook page.

On all social networks (bar Google+, but this doesn’t matter any more because it is being phased out), you need to start the mention with the @ symbol. Type the @ and begin the username of the person you are mentioning without using any spaces, this is the same format for a business page or a personal profile e.g. my facebook business page is @aclintonforde. Once the mention turns blue or underlined, it’s working and has turned into a link to that page.

However, before you go head first into mentions, first you need to check that you are mentioning the right person. To do this you have to use the search option on whatever social network you using. Remember that some businesses and users will have different names on each social network. The name that they have for Facebook will only work on Facebook, this also applies for Instagram and so on, so you need to make sure that person or business has the right format on each platform when you are posting. Don’t just copy and paste or ‘post to all networks’ on you management platforms (ie Hootsuite, Later etc.) without checking that you tagging is right first.

How to do Facebook Tagging or Mentions.

If you are 100% sure of the person’s username or the business name, you can simply type in the @ followed by the first letters of their username and you will be given a list of all the users beginning with that name. Facebook on your personal page does this without the @ as you are typing in the message.

However, if you don’t know their name or think there may be a number of John Murphys, go to the search bar at the top of the page and type their name in, select their name from the list of people and pages you see listed. You can then check their username on desktop, by looking at the end of the URL at the top of the browser window, or on mobile, go to their profile click on ‘About’ and you will see their username in the ‘Contact Info’. For a business on mobile devices, you will see the username under the title name of the page, it will have an @ before it. This all works the same whether you are mentioning them in a post or a comment in a post.

Finding @username on Facebook Mobile
Finding @username on Facebook Desktop

How to do Instagram Tagging or Mentions.

If you are sure of the name simply beginning to type it will bring up the list of users and you just click on them, voila they are tagged. If you need to search for them, Instagram is more straightforward than Facebook. The title that you see beside the user or company name is the username that you will use to tag them. All you need to do is use the search bar on desktop or the magnifying glass at the bottom on mobile, then type in their name to search. When you find the right person, highlight and copy their name. Go to your post where you are mentioning them, type in an @ and paste in their name without any spaces e.g. @brewerycoffee. This all works the same whether you are mentioning them in a post or a comment in a post.

Finding @username on Instagram Desktop
Finding @username on Instagram Mobile

How to do Twitter Tagging or Mentions

There are a few more subtleties to twitter tagging than other networks, but I’ll start with the basics first. Just like Facebook and Instagram if you type the @ symbol first and begin their name, you will get a list of users beginning with that name and all you have to do is keep typing until you can select the correct person/business.

However, if you need to verify that you have the correct name, go to the search bar on desktop or the magnifying glass on mobile, you will be able to type in the person’s name, search and select the person you want. Once on their profile, you will see their display name and under this is the username with the @ before it. You can then copy this and use it to mention them on Twitter.

however, with Twitter, you need to be careful where in the text that you add the tag too. When you put the tag with nothing, no words or other text, in front of the mention only the user’s followers and you can see the post. However, if you have some text before the tag, then all your followers and theirs can see them, this allows all followers to see the conversation and this also includes people who aren’t following you but have looked at your tweets.

How to do LinkedIn Tagging or Mentions

LinkedIn is the same with all the above when you know the name of the user you want to mention. Type the @ symbol and with no spaces being to type the name of who you are mentioning and you will get a list, click who you want and they are mentioned. This works the same in posts and replies.

To check a username you will need to use the search bar on the LinkedIn desktop to search for the user, select the person from the results and then, just like Facebook, check the URL on the browser and you will see their username at the end of the web address. https://www.linkedin.com/in/avrilclintonforde/, you just need to add the @ in front of it. For mobile devices, you will need to go to their profile and scroll almost to the end. You will then see ‘Contact Info’ and you can see their LinkedIn profile details there. (This is my own profile in the screenshot but it’s essentially the same).

Just remember with LinkedIn, the person’s profile that you click, they will also get a notification that you viewed their profile while you were researching them.

Finding @username on LinkedIn Desktop
Finding @username on LinkedIn Desktop

Hashtags on Social Media, what are they are how do I get in there with the hip cool kids.

Hashtags are quite a simple concept and were originally introduced by Twitter. This is an important key to understanding what they are originally for and how to use them. Twitter was born with the idea of instant updates in mind, these ‘as it happens’ updates were greatly utilised by the media to report on happenings around the world. With this adoption, there could be a number of news stories running concurrently – imagine if, Kylie Jenner was in the middle of a scandal, Brexit is in jeopardy because they want all the cake and Donald Trump fires yet another one of his white house staff, along with everything else going on in the world. Straight away the second by second nature of Twitters updates would become very confusing if you were interested in only one topic. Hence hashtags.

Hashtags are generated by the users of the social platform, a number of users may generate varying ones but generally, one gets adopted and is used for those updates. For example, these hashtags have generally been adopted across the board – Ruby: #IREvNZL, News: #Brexit, Environmental: #EndOceanPlastics.

Once a hashtag has gained popularity and is being used on a number of updates, users can click on the hashtag in whatever platform they are using and collect all of the posts that mention this tag together. Basically, it collates a topic of interest into one fresh and focused news feed, this helps to filter out all other noise that is irrelevant or not of interest to the reader at the time. Simple.

Using Hashtags for Your Business

I will go into more detail on this later (cos I really need to look after my clients today at some stage), but basically, you can use hashtags to help you with your marketing efforts. You can use a hashtag that includes your brand name or runs a promotion that includes a hashtag so that you can look up all the noise around it. They are very useful for marketing and as they are used word spreads and they can even become trending if there is enough of a buzz around them.

Using Hashtags on Facebook

Since Facebook users and developers were such late adopters of hashtags they are not as welcome of commonly used in Facebook. As a result, it is best for you to use very useful ones to your business or topic and only use a maximum of 3 (push to 5) in your posts. If you’re not sure of the power or relevancy of a Hashtag, then do a search and see if recent, relevant posts are available for that tag.



Using Hashtags on Instagram

This is a bit of anything goes, users are used to Hashtags here and they are used in large numbers. However, as a brand be careful you don’t want to look like your just trying to be cool, as this will quickly be picked up as disingenuous. Limit your number of tags to about 10 and make sure they are accurate, well used and to the point of what you are conveying. As with all the platforms, research your hashtags first, because Instagram is flooded with so many overused tags you will need to make sure that you have the right tags.

Using Hashtags on Twitter

With the character limit of just 280 characters, space is at a premium. Also, don’t forget that many of those who use twitter, love twitter, so you need to respect them by using your hashtags very relevantly and sparingly. They must be relevant to the topic you are discussing, never irrelevant a maximum of 5 is usually a safe bet. Again, check the posts that are using your chosen tags and make sure they suit your brand or message. It’s safe to use tags like #DigitalMarketing or #MakeupTutoral but don’t be over general with something like #Video or #News.

Using Hashtags on LinkedIn

Rember your in work now and you have to at least ‘act’ mature. This is an easy one and LinkedIn can really help too. According to the keywords in your content, LinkedIn will suggest hashtags that are relevant to your content so you can select what works. The tags on linked in are often quite general but related to business topics, news and events, for example, #AI, #TechCon2018, #GoogleAnalytics. Referring back to the workplace, don’t litter your posts with hashtags, this is not Instagram, using 1-3 is just right and make sure they are super focused to you, your industry or what you are discussing.

Remember, just because a hashtag has a massive usage it does not mean it’s a good one, read the posts that are using it and make sure it fits with your brand. Also, never use a hashtag that is irrelevant, trending or popular just to grab attention this will tarnish your image instantly.

Hopefully, I have explained this in enough detail for you to understand the difference between Mentions and Hashtags. I will do a follow-on post of what you can use Hashtags for in your business and marketing efforts and how to utilise them on each platform.

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