Twitter 101: Using @Reply Correctly

The correct way to use @ on Twitter

The correct way to use @ on Twitter

If you're new to Twitter, much of it can feel confusing and a bit daunting. One of the main issues I hear from clients is: "Twitter doesn't make sense to me. It's so confusing!" I get it, with the hashtags, @ symbols, and not to mention all the shorthand, it can start to seem like a new language. So it's very easy to get confused, and make mistakes.

I personally believe Twitter is an amazing networking tool, and a great place to meet new people both professionally and personally, so I always try to really push my clients around using it. It can be a dynamic resource for any creative person.

With any new skill, there's a bit of a learning curve. Although it may not seem like it at first glance, Twitter is very easy once you get the basics down. Today, I'm going to cover one of the most common mistakes newcomers make: starting a tweet with a user's handle thinking it's seen by all of their followers.

Stay with me. It becomes clearer! Let's go over replying and responding on Twitter first.

@ Replying

When replying to, or speaking exclusively to other people on Twitter, you begin your tweet with the person's handle. Starting a tweet with someone's handle, is referred to as an '@ reply' or '@mention.' For the most part your followers do not see these tweets. There is one exception though. The only people who see this type of tweet is the person you're replying to, and anyone that follows you and the person you tweeted to. These types of conversations are demonstrated in my tweets below:

@freelancersu discipline around not working 14 hr days.

— Meighan O'Toole (@meigs) February 20, 2014

@joshlafayette your @virb site actually encouraged me to look into them. I wanted something clean & easy. <3

— Meighan O'Toole (@meigs) February 20, 2014

@buffer thank you so much! Sung your praises today at a workshop I ran about social media. <3 — Meighan O'Toole (@meigs) February 26, 2014

The above are conversations, these types of tweets stay between you and the account you are following (and those that follow you andthem) as to not crowd other's Twitter feeds. Twitter offers an easy 'Reply' feature under all tweets.



Making Sure Your Followers See Your Tweet

Let's get into a very common mistake many new Twitter users make when sharing with their entire stream.

Sometimes it's easier to start a tweet with someone's handle when sharing content, or referring to someone — it just flows or reads easier. However, if you do start a tweet with a username, no one will see it but the person mentioned (and those who also follow you and that account). Remember, this is just replying. So what gives? Should you never start a tweet with a username? Well, sort of.


There is a very simple workaround to make sure your followers see your tweet when starting with someone's handle; place a period (.) or a quote (' or ") before the username. By adding one character to the front of the tweet, your whole stream is able to see it. Why use a period, or quote and not use a full word? Sometimes it just makes sense to start a tweet this way, plus by using one character you don't lose any major real estate (Remember, you only get 140 characters in a tweet). Any kind of punctuation can be used, but the most common way is to use a period. Below are a few examples:

.@cathy_callahan is revealing the secret to making her amazing macrame necklaces! Sign up for her class here: — christina loff (@tweetsweet) March 4, 2014

.@ElonMusk says the Tesla Model E will be 20% smaller than the Model S, half the cost (~$35k) w/ 200 mile range. — Steve Garfield (@stevegarfield) March 4, 2014

.@rachelryle is easily one of my favorite Instagram accounts. Her illustrated videos are so smart.

— Meighan O'Toole (@meigs) February 26, 2014

Once you get the hang of many of the nuances on Twitter it becomes very easy, and an enjoyable place to hang out, and interact with folks in your community. I highly recommend it for all creative people.


Another way to utilize the period is if and when you want to share your reply with your entire feed. Use this sparingly, most people really don't want to see an ongoing convo in their feed. This is exactly why your followers can see responses to accounts they follow as well -- if they follow both accounts then perhaps the conversation may be interesting. But again, if you are talking back and forth continually I would recommend utilizing the Direct Message feature.

Now if you want to get super fancy, and use a little code to completely remove the period check out this handy tip from Buzzfeed. Derp, scratch that, looks like it no longer works. So go back and read what I said above.

Have a question for me? Ask me below, or hit me up on Twitter -- my favorite place to be. :)