There is one character that should appear in most of your facebook posts and tweets. No, not YOU, silly! I’m talking about the “at symbol” (@). For many of us, it resides on the same keyboard key as the number 2. And now that we know WHERE it is, let’s look at WHY you should regularly use it in your social media communications.

The simple answer is that the @ symbol has the ability to create a linkage between your social media profile and that of another person’s. And when your profiles are connected, you now share some kind of connection (however temporary) as actual human beings, too. In the Facebook realm they call this “@ mention tagging.” In the Twitter world there are “@replies.” They work similarly. Here is what Facebook’s blog had to say about it:

“Now, when you are writing a status update and want to add a friend’s name to something you are posting, just include the “@” symbol beforehand. As you type the name of what you would like to reference, a drop-down menu will appear that allows you to choose from your list of friends and other connections, including groups, events, applications and Pages. Soon, you’ll be able to tag friends from applications as well. The “@” symbol will not be displayed in the published status update or post after you’ve added your tags.”

There are countless ways in which this function can help your music promotion efforts, but here are two humble examples from my own life:

1) The trumpet player in my band Chris Robley & the Fear of Heights recently did some recording sessions for Bob Pollard’s (of Guided By Voices fame) new project Boston Spaceships. He was a huge GBV fan and was psyched to be involved in the project. This gave OUR band 2 chances to promote ourselves to a new audience. First, we used the “@BostonSpaceships” tag in our tweets and facebook posts right after he’d been in the studio. We got to communicate our excitement to our fans and, because our post with the “@BostonSpaceships” tag now shows up in the Boston Spaceship’s facebook feed, simultaneously put our name in front of Bob Pollard’s audience. Second, well… we did the same thing again upon the album’s official release!

2) About a month ago, I walked into a restaurant called Burgerville, which is a NorthWest chain of fast food restaurants that use grass-fed, hormone free beef and local ingredients. They also happen to make amazing milkshakes (the real reason for my visit.) Anyways, as I’m walking in, I hear a song playing over their radio that I instantly know I love, but can’t quite put my finger on who it is. Then it hits me. It is me! Well, firstly, I’m glad in that surreal moment I actually LIKED my own music without knowing it was mine. But then I wondered how it came to be placed in rotation alongside Pearl Jam and the Beatles on Burgerville’s satellite station.

Anyways, I found the moment entertaining enough to post about, and I included the @Burgerville mention. The next day, a woman from their marketing department wrote me, saying she’d seen my post, and wondered if my band would like to play in one of their locations right before Halloween. I’d heard that a few local “buzz bands” had done these Burgerville shows, and the idea of playing an all-ages show in costume at a burger joint right before Halloween seemed like too good, too silly, to surreal an idea to pass up. Plus, we’d get some interesting video footage no matter how the gig went. Granted, it wasn’t an offer to play Coachella or Saturday Night Live. But I think the principle still applies. My band’s name was visible to Burgerville’s many facebook followers, and I got a performance offer, all by pressing that one little key, “@.”

-Chris R. at CD Baby

P.S. The “@ mention” tag in Facebook only works when posting. It doesn’t work when leaving a comment.