The Rise of the @Mention



Written by Morning Winterholler, Spring 2014 Intern at SocialCentiv

The “@” symbol was left off early typewriters and other devices, but in the early 1970s, this all began to change. At the time, a computer engineer had the idea to use it as a connector in email addresses. The “a” symbol is now an integral part of various social networks. It might be hard to believe that before Twitter and Facebook, it was originally intended for just email use.

The first use of the “@” symbol on Twitter was on November 2, 2006 by Robert Andersen, who at the time was a freelance designer. Andersen did not use the symbol exactly as it is used today, but he did use it similarly to reply to another Twitter user. Instead of the username immediately following the “@” symbol, Anderson separated the two with a space.

Nonetheless, this symbol caught on. It has since spread like wildfire across the social media world as a means of communication with other users. Facebook incorporated the “@” symbol in 2009, LinkedIn in 2013, and Tumblr most recently. People use it to reach out to friends and alert them of posts that are relevant to them, such as tagging their face in an Instagram photo or video.

This widespread symbol is just one example of social networks adopting each other’s language and processes, many of which (but not all!) originated on Twitter. Some other popular trends across the various social networks include the ability to follow, use a hashtag, and repost content.

The adoption of similar jargon across networks helps social media marketers unify and strengthen their campaigns. It makes reaching new users easier and allows for more consistent messaging and brand awareness.

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