Many new Twitter users are confused at all of the different symbols and shorthand abbreviations that show up in people’s tweets. But the three most common signs used, the hashtag, retweet and reply functions, are easy to get the hang of once their basic functions are understood.
What Are Hashtags, Replies and Retweets?
All three of these common Twitter functions are used as a kind of shorthand way to tag something in the tweet. They are placed before the word they tag.
How to Use # Hashtags
When Twitter users see a pound sign (#), they know this is a hash tag. Hash tags mark a tweet as belonging to a particular subject or category. So if a tweet is about cats, the user would type “#cats” to indicate that it is the subject of that message.
An example of this kind of tag is: “#cats Black cats are the best!”
Then, anyone searching for tweets about cats will easily be able to find their post, along with any other posts tagged with the same #cats hashtag.
Some hashtags use a shortened word or initials after the pound sign. For example, people tweeting about Chinese internet censorship often use the tag #gfw, which stands for “great fire wall.” Searching #gfw will lead to lots of information on what websites are currently blocked in China.
How to Use @ Replies
The at sign “@”, indicates a reply on Twitter. Anytime a Tweeter uses this symbol, they are indicating that their tweet is a response to someone else’s tweet. For people not following both parties of the conversation, this can be confusing. The tag usually links back to the person it is referring to, so clicking on it will bring viewers to that person’s tweetstream.
An at reply tag will look like this “@Susan I think that is a really bad idea. You should try talking to him instead.”
The user is obviously responding to something Susan said, but unless the viewer is also following Susan, they might not know what the tweet is a response to.
The @ reply tag can also be used to reference someone in the tweet so that others can go directly to that person’s Twitter stream. For example: ” I had dinner with @Susan tonight.”
How to Use RT Retweets
The letters “RT” in a tweet indicate that it is a retweet, something copied from someone else’s post and passed along. An RT is often a link, breaking news or a funny or poignant comment that the Tweeter thinks his or her followers would also like to read. To create a retweet, type “RT @username” before the thing that is being passed along.
For example: “RT @Susan Fun Twitter Uses. This is a great article on Tweeting” would link back to the article while giving Susan credit for finding it.
These three tags- hashtags, at replies and retweets- are important because they help organize the vast river of information on Twitter. Getting to know their functions can make Tweeting a more interesting and useful experience for new and old users of the site.