If you google the term "twitter tips" you will see in almost every article tips on using hashtags #. Hashtags increase your exposure, gain you a bigger viewing audience and allow you to zero in on a target area.
The @ is found at the beginning of every Twitter name. For example my Twitter name is @GreyCrossStudio. Whenever someone uses my @ name I see it because it shows up on my Twitter feed (That is unless i block your ass for being a spammer).
The @ is a little more time consuming than the #. Its easy to remember a keyword such as #art or #music. Remembering someones Twitter name is a bit more complicated. So why bother?
Lets use myself as an example. I have a Twitter follower base of about 15,000 (at the time of this article). That base goes up between 10-20 followers a day. Now if you use #art and the article is interesting or pertinent to the work I do, the chances are that I probably won't see it. Say the article has to do with sculpting in New Orleans and you know I'd be interested. Besides hashtagging #sculpture and #NewOrleans, you also use my @ name because you most definitely see it. As a result I may retweet it to my followers. So, by using @, you just potentially exposed your tweet to my 15,000 users.
This does NOT mean that you should use my name on everything you Tweet, because that will just result in me blocking you. The key is "targeting". Sending a tweet to the right user for a specific reason. For example, if I tweet out an article of interest to sculptors, I will often check to see if the writer of the article has a Twitter account. If they do, I will quite often add their @ to the article. Say the article is about a specific sculptor. I could easily # their name, such as #JoeSmith. But better yet is if I also use @JoeSmith. Now I have the potential of having the tweet seen by Joe's fans and potentially retweeted by his followers and Joe himself.
The more often I target my @, the more exposure I gain for the tweet.
Often in a tweet I may @ the article writer, the publication its in and the person its about.
You have to be creative about using the @. You have to do a little research to make sure the person you want to target is a Twitter user and above all else you must not become a nuisance to the user.
The added benefit is that the person you are targeting may actually begin to follow you back. They see you as a dedicated follower that enhances their reputation. then your not only getting more exposure for your tweet but you are also creating a crucial relationship link. That well known person now knows who you are. And the chain of connections for whatever work you do is strengthened. Above and beyond this you may also pick up users who follow that person.
I have about two dozen high profile art world people who follow me back because of this. Doesn't sound like much, but I once did a quick tally of the number of followers combined that these 24 or so people have and the number was about 4 million followers.
The thing about Twitter is that its not built on your followers alone. Its built on the combined strength of all the people who are out there. Finding ways to make those numbers work in your favor is the key.
If you combine the use of @ with the use of # and you also watch for trending topics that fit your fields of interest, you can create positive and strong following for yourself.
Always remember, its not always about people seeing you work. Its about people associating your name with your field of expertise. Mine is art. The more people who can associate my name with the art world, the more my base grows and the more my work ultimately gets seen.
Last year I wrote an article called the New Patrons which is one way in which the power of the @ can be used. I suggest you check it out sometime.
Last word of a caution. The power of the @ is strong but if you use it without being thoughtful of the other person and respectful of their feed it can and will backfire on you. Use it carefully and it can be a great asset to growing your user base.