Some clarification about how @replies work on Twitter

When you see an update that you want to comment on or reply to on Twitter, most people click on the Reply arrow on the right side of the update. (See How to Reply to Tweets)

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When you do this, the person’s name, in this case @DebraCortese, automatically appears in the Twitter form at the beginning.

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You type out a response, send it to the Twitterverse and assume that everyone who follows you can see your conversation with that person.

Not so! Only the people who are following BOTH YOU AND THE PERSON YOU’RE REPLYING TO can see that response.

To get around this, someone smart started using a period before the @, which seems to work–as evidenced here in a reply from JohnTUnger to someone I am not following, which showed up in my Twitter stream.

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It’s not necessary that all of your followers see all of your replies. In fact, in can be downright noisy to hear just one side of a conversation. But if you have something interesting to add in your reply–something that you think your followers want to know about–you can either add the period at the beginning (.@abstanfield) or add the @name anywhere in the response EXCEPT at the very beginning. So . . .

This reply that I sent to @AngelSnakes was seen only by the people who were following both AngelSnakes and me.

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If I had wanted everyone to see it, I could have written it like this:

No new book is planned for our Twitter book club @AngelSnakes Maybe in the fall. Will take recommendations.

Or:

.@angelsnakes No new book is planned for our Twitter book club. Maybe in the fall. Will take recommendations.

The best lesson I had on this came from the article Much Ado About @reply

Thanks to @WalterHawn for the heads up on this. I honestly had never considered it!

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17 comments to Some clarification about how @replies work on Twitter

  • Sorry, but I think that information is completely wrong. Your followers can see all your public tweets (a reply is still a public tweet) UNLESS you specifically send a Direct Message. I find lots of new people to follow precisely that way – because I see an intriguing one-sided conversation so go to see what the other person is saying.

  • Just double checking – I actually went into your Twitter feed anonymousely (I didn’t log in) and yes, I can see your reply to Angelsnakes in the public stream from July 20th.

  • Tina: Twitter changed this in May. It caused an uproar. Follow that link to the article that was my resource to see the original articles.

    You can see AngelSnakes in MY stream, but it doesn’t show up in YOURS unless you’re following her or I move the @AngelSnakes from the beginning of the tweet.

  • Thanks for the good information, @abstandfield. I will use it.

    I know this is a divergent thought, but so far, I have not had one person that I can tell get to http://angelsnakes.com from Twitter. I have 160+ followers now. I am following others and have followers in several niches. Not one has clicked. I can see the referrals on Typepad Statistics; those from Twitter seem to be so noted. At least when I have clicked from Twitter myself. People in several niches are adding me to their follow list daily. What is up with this?

    Clearly, I am doing something wrong. Anyone with ideas, please let me know.

  • There is a problem with the “.@” method. It breaks the link to the conversation, making it impossible for people to follow it backwards.

    When you normally reply to someone else, a link is added to the end of your tweet’s metadata that says “in reply to danielsroka”. Clicking on this lets you see the tweet that person was replying too. Savvy 3rd party programs like Tweetie take advantage of this, showing you the entire conversation going back and forth.

    When you use .@ to reply, you break this feature, meaning a reader has no idea what you were replying to.

  • .@replies drive me bananas. (I unfollow people who abuse them.) It’s politer and easier on the eyes , I think, to include your interlocutor’s handle in the body of your tweet.

    Down with dot-ats!

  • […] will regularly see people adding a . (period) before their @replies or placing some other text before the @reply to prevent it from becoming a semi-private […]

  • Gay: Keep it up and keep me posted. I don’t have an answer for you. I am only recently able to follow Twitter results on my blog, so I’ll keep an eye out for them, too.

    Daniel: Thanks so much for this! We need to know this stuff. I agree with Laura, too, that I prefer the other method. I also need to check out how to follow a conversation backwards.

  • […] a great tip I picked up on twitter ArtBizBlog; When you click the reply button on a tweet and get the “@username” as the first word […]

  • Great twitter tip….is that a twip? hmm. :)

  • […] A little more on Twitter’s fairly recent change to @replies in this post. […]

  • doc

    Many thanks for the tips in the article as well as those who commented. Very helpful to novice like me.

  • Kim King

    “Sorry, but I think that information is completely wrong. Your followers can see all your public tweets (a reply is still a public tweet) UNLESS you specifically send a Direct Message. I find lots of new people to follow precisely that way – because I see an intriguing one-sided conversation so go to see what the other person is saying.”

    Wow, I guess next time you’ll read before speaking. Anything a person publicly tweets is visible to everyone, however, @ replies depend entirely on whether or not you are following both parties. Not sure what about that was confusing for you. Hopefully, it’s all cleared up now.

  • It’s actually quite confusing because of the way it’s worded in the article above.

    To clarify,

    You can see other people’s @name replies in tweets (without the .) IF:

    – you’re following both of them
    – they don’t have @name as the first thing in the tweet
    – you specifically go to either of their streams.

    What the article above is trying to say is that you won’t see @replies specifically in your timeline/feed unless they use the .@name. You will still be able to view them by visiting their profile or viewing more of the conversation.

  • […] your tweet begins with an @Name, it is seen only in the streams of people who are following both you and the @Name. This is an […]

  • Thanks. That was helpful. I didn’t actually realise that is how it worked, but knew that it was somehow different to a normal tweet. Thanks again.

  • Eassy

    Guys I need help, ever since I started using this new twitter my replies to a tweet are now like a new tweet I just sent to someone whereas I’m continuing a conversation e.g RT @rip_syncane @EassY_B while the old one was like this
    RT @rip_syncane you cute eassy @EassY_B What does my profile pic say to you? … Please Help