Twitter – How to Reply

December 18, 2009 · 15 comments

Replies are what conversations are made of on twitter. They can’t be complicated can they? Well there are some subtleties you should know about. Here’s some tips to get you started. Lets take a look at twitter.com to see how they look.

1. Tweeting from your Home Page

Lets make some tweets from the ‘Home’ page. This is the page you see when you log in to http://twitter.com. It’s where you see all the tweets of people you follow in a stream – well not all. You won’t see their Direct Messages (DM) of course. But you also won’t see some of their public tweets there. Let me explain.

This is a tweet without anyone’s @handle in it that I wrote on my homepage:

HowtoReply.1.simpletweet

When I hit the ‘update’ button the tweet is sent to the streams of all the people who follow me.

Tip: A @handle is your username – its what people use to send you a public message. My handle for this blog’s twitter account is @justprofs. You’ll notice that people’s @handles are blue on twitter – click on the handle and you’ll see that person’s profile.

2. Standard Replies – select followers see the tweet

When you hover over the stream of tweets in your homepage you can see a ‘reply’ and a ‘retweet’ button. If I click the ‘reply’ button I can reply to the person who sent the tweet.

HowtoReply.2.replybutton

Below is a tweet reply I made by pressing the ‘reply’ button. When I hit reply, Twitter puts the person’s @handle at the front and I can type in after it to send James (@projectbook) a message. I call this a Standard Reply, with the @handle at the front:

HowtoReply.3.standardreply

Now, though I tweeted a reply to James from my account, everyone who follows me won’t see my reply. Only the people who follow us both will. For example, I don’t follow James with my @architectleague account (because I only follow architects there). So @architectleague can’t see my Standard Reply to James in its stream. This is because I put his @handle right at the front of my tweet.

There are advantages to people not seeing your tweets to everyone. If you follow someone who replies a lot it can fill up your stream! For example, if you follow me, you’ll see all the tweets I send, except the Standard Replies (with the @handle at the front) to people you do not follow. And as I follow over 2000 people, this could save you some irrelevant reading!

If you want to see all my tweets, you need to go to my profile page, by clicking my @handle or visiting http://twittercom/username where you replace ‘username’ with the handle (no @).

Tip: If you want to see people’s replies to you, visit the Mentions page (the @Username link on the right hand margin of your homepage at twitter.com)

3. Open Replies – Making sure everyone who follows you sees your tweet.

Sometimes you want everyone to see your tweets, not just the person you are replying to and his followers. Perhaps you want to share the comment with everyone, but still want to make sure the message goes to the ‘mentions’ stream of the person you’re replying to.

Here’s an open reply from my home page stream:

HowtoReply.4.OpenReply

Note how @mikebutcher has credited the originator of the message (by using ‘via’) and copied in someone else (cc @evarley). But everyone who follows him will see this message, because it doesn’t have someone’s @handle right at the front.

So if you want everyone to see your tweet reply, you can use the reply button if you like, but type something IN FRONT of the @handle. Whatever it is, type something. Then everyone will see the tweet.

The downside of typing in front of someone’s @handle in a reply is that it may break the thread of connections you can see by clicking ‘in reply to’ below a tweet, or those you can see when you use search.twitter.com. But it’s a small price to pay sometimes. Don’t you think?

Postscript

One of the reasons people like to follow me is that I ‘find such interesting stuff’ – and one of the reasons for this is that I follow a wide range of people. If I didn’t follow them I wouldn’t see their tweets, but also because I follow quite a lot I see more tweets between them – because of the ‘Standard Replies’ phenomenon. Its one good reason for following a large number of people – but that’s for another post.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nicky December 18, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Thats great Su.

I cant believe I didnt know about the fact that you dont see the @replies unless you are following both people – and I’m not a newbie any more!

I think the point you mention as a tip that you need to click on Mentions on your Twitter page to see any mentions of your name is really important for new people to Twitter. Feedback from many new people on Twitter is that they didnt realise it was even a button to click on! Hopefully Twitter will make this a little bit more obvious at some point in the future.

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2 Su December 18, 2009 at 9:44 pm

A very good point about Mentions Nicky, when you get into twitter it does seem so simple, yet there is a lot to learn.

I’m working on a visualisation of the twitter experience – home stream, replies, dms, filtering and linking. Coming soon…

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3 david hardcastle December 22, 2009 at 11:18 am

Just for newbies, when Nicky talks about Mentions, it’s the tab at the side – @username

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4 david hardcastle December 22, 2009 at 11:19 am

sorry I’ll take that back, Su already told you!

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5 Su December 25, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Hi David, thanks for the tip (i’ll let you off!) Merry Christmas!

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6 Andy kenyon December 29, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Well I have learned something tonight. I new about standrad replies but not about how to make replies visible to all by making sure there was text before the @name.

Needless to say I shall be latering my method or reply in future.

Thanks Su

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7 Alex Parr December 30, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Well, I never! I didn’t know that about replies! Thanks for the tip.
Have a great New Year and look forward to catching up soon.
Alex.

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8 Nicky December 30, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Thanks Andy and Alex for making me feel like I am not the only one! We are the ones brave (or stupid enough) to admit it! ;)

Happy NY everyone!

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9 Su December 30, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Thanks for your comments Nicky, Alex, Andy.
There is no such thing as a stupid question by the way.
(as my antenatal teacher told me!)

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10 tkpleslie January 3, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Hi Su!

First, Happy New Year’s to you and thank you for all your help in 2009!

I am sure you have noticed how I put a “.” in front of many of my tweets? It’s so that all can see. As you say, if you start the tweet with JUST the @username only those people following both people will see it.

To help your readers visualitze it a little bit better, maybe this will help:

.@SuButcher or *SuButcher or Hi @SuButcher or a variation -as long as their is a character of some sort in front of the @username gets seen by everyone following you.

@SuButcher with no character in front is seen only by people who are following both you and the person the tweet is adressed to.

I hope this helps a little if ppl. need a visual demo!

I first learned this tip myself from @shelisrael and have been using it for many months now.

Thanks for posting about this-I bet it will help a lot of people.

Leslie

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11 Su January 4, 2010 at 6:48 am

Hi Leslie, Happy New Year, and congratulations on the success so far with your colleague @shineeveryday Susan Ortiz’ Paris trip.

Thanks very much for the visual example, really helps explain it.

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12 Su May 10, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Update – Another way to see all of someone’s tweets.
Now that twitter has invented Lists, you can also see all of someone’s tweets by adding them to a list.
Lists are independent of the @replies phenomenon.
To add someone to a list of yours, click the list-like button on the right of their ‘Follow’ or ‘Stop Following’ button on their profile.
Why not make a list of people from whom you must read everything? You can even make it private.

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13 DianaCelella July 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Thanx that is really interesting only been tweeting 6 months and did not know about @ username at being of message.

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