Thanks to contributor Maram Aoudi for this post.
Your guide to understanding Twitter and the difference between a “#” and “@”
When you “#tag” something you are doing it in order to join a trending topic or a conversation. It’s extremely useful to join the trending topic because it gives you exposure to people talking about the same thing you are. When you #tag (sometimes called hashtag), it becomes clickable (a hyperlink), and when clicking the #tag, it will show you everyone else engaging in the same conversation about that certain subject.
For example if you tag #coffee, then by clicking on the link, you can see what everyone around the world is saying at that moment about coffee, and join in on the conversation. This will help you increase your exposure and following because it allows your tweet to be seen by everyone who is talking about #coffee. Other people who are talking about coffee may see your tweet, enjoy it and ultimately start following you. It also allows you to join the conversation and engage with others on Twitter. If your tweet does not have a #tag in it, then it is only being seen by your followers; it does not allow you to engage the twitter realm and make new contacts.
When you “@” someone you are tweeting to get their direct attention. You are engaging that person/company into a conversation. When you @ a person/company it drives potential traffic to that user’s account. The product or person must have an account in order for you to do this.
For example you can tweet @Starbuckscanada, and by doing so, the person controlling that account (and all your followers) will directly see that tweet. You are tweeting to get the attention of Starbucks Canada. Unless Starbucks Canada responds to your tweet or retweets you, only they (and your followers) will see it. Once they respond to you, then their followers and everyone who stumbles on their account will see your name.
# and @ – Try it out
You can include a #tag and an@ in the same tweet, for example:
I had @starbucks this morning their #pumpkinspicelatte is delicious!!!
This drives traffic to Starbucks and allows you to join the conversation about pumpkin spice lattes. It is also a benefit because for the people searching pumpkin spice latte, they might also see your account and decide to follow you.