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How to Tweet Someone Properly and Twitter’s Most Confusing Thing

Wondering how to tweet someone? You’re not the only one.

In fact, over the past year, the phrase “how to use Twitter” has been searched for on Google an average of 8,100 times per month. In other words, Twitter isn’t always the easiest thing to use.

This can be especially true when it comes to replying to another Twitter user. That’s because Twitter has some quirky terms. For example, there’s a mention and there’s a reply. They’re not the same thing, though they operate in similar ways.

Confused? No worries. I’ll explain.

What’s a mention on Twitter?

A mention on Twitter is when a tweet contains the @ symbol followed by a Twitter username. Here’s an example:Screenshot showing a tweet by @BidwellHollow that mentions the author Zadie Smith.
The “@NewYorker” part of the above tweet is a mention.

You can mention any Twitter user. To do so, simply write a tweet that includes the @ symbol plus their Twitter username. Like this: @ + NewYorker = @NewYorker.

When you mention another Twitter user, they get a notification that lets them know they’ve been mentioned in a tweet by you.

What’s a reply tweet?

Alright, now what’s a reply?

A reply tweet is when you reply to someone’s tweet. That seems straightforward, but it’s a little bit more complicated than it sounds.

First, let’s see an example of a reply tweet:A screenshot of a tweet showing T-Mobile CEO John Legere replying to another person on Twitter.

In this tweet, TMobile CEO John Legere is replying to another Twitter user.

This is how to tweet someone: Tap on your phone, or, if you’re on your computer, click on the reply icon underneath their tweet. The reply icon is a speech bubble.

Type what you want to tweet. Then click or tap the “Reply” button and, Wah-Lah, you’ve tweeted a reply!

Now, you should know that when you reply to someone’s tweet, that tweet does not appear in the Twitter timeline, or feed, of everyone who follows you.

Instead, a reply tweet appears only in the timeline of:

  • The person to whom you’re replying
  • Anyone who follows both you and that person

Which brings us to perhaps the most confusing thing about Twitter.

Twitter’s Most Confusing Thing

Believe it or not, Twitter has been around for 12 years. And in those 12 years, people have consistently made the same mistake.

I’ve seen individuals do it. Professionals who run social media for big companies do it. Small business owners and thought leaders do it.

What is the mistake?

Beginning a tweet with a mention. Like this:
Screenshot of a tweet that starts with an at mention.

What’s wrong with this tweet?

Well, it begins with “@FHFA.” When you begin a tweet with a mention (@ + username), it makes that tweet a reply.

And remember what we learned about where reply tweets appear on Twitter. That’s right, the only people for whom reply tweets appear in their Twitter timelines are:

  • The person to whom a reply tweet is directed
  • Anyone who follows both the person who published the reply tweet and the person to whom the tweet was directed

This means that when you begin a tweet with an @username, making it a reply tweet, that tweet doesn’t appear in your followers’ Twitter timelines.

That’s fine if you’re just replying to someone. But if you want your followers to see a tweet, like in the tweet¬†above, don’t begin it with an @username.

Simple enough, except what about when you want to start a tweet with someone’s username?

Ah, there’s a trick for that.

How to Tweet Someone So Others Can See It, Too

There are times when the best way to write a tweet is to start it with someone’s Twitter username.

For example, let’s say you want to send a tweet to someone else on Twitter. A good way to write that tweet might be like this: “@Username, just read this interesting article about llamas. Thought you might enjoy it, too.”

Remember, though, that this tweet wouldn’t appear in the timelines of your other Twitter followers. That’s fine if you don’t care if your other Twitter followers see the tweet.

But what if you do want your other followers to see this tweet?

To tweet someone in a way that your followers can see the tweet, too, takes something magical. What is it?

A period. That’s right. The magnificent period can make your reply tweet a tweet that your other followers can see.

Image explaining how to tweet someone so that others can see it.

All you have to do is put a period in front of the @username that starts your tweet. Like this: “.@Username, just read this interesting article about llamas. Thought you might enjoy it, too.”

Just like that, your previous tweet that was only visible to the person you tweeted to and anyone following you both, becomes a tweet that the rest of your followers can savor as well.

Of course, you don’t have to use a period.¬†Any punctuation or letter before the @username will work.

It’s just that the period is often the least intrusive. For example, starting a tweet with an exclamation point, !@username, would work. But it doesn’t look as simple as a period, .@username.

Now Tweet Someone Properly

Alright, let’s recap.

A mention on Twitter is any time a username is included with the @ symbol in a tweet. Like this: Check out this @nytimes’ article!

A reply on Twitter is when you start a tweet with the @ symbol followed by a Twitter username. For example, @nbarron Check out this article!

A tweet that starts with the @ symbol and a Twitter username is only seen by the person you’re tweeting and anyone who follows both you and the other Twitter user.

But, if you want others to see the tweet you’re sending to that person, just put a period before the @username at the start of your tweet.

And that’s how you tweet someone so others can see, too.

So why not give it a shot? Head over to Twitter or open Twitter on your phone.

Then send out a tweet like the one below. Or, write your own tweet. Just remember, if you start your tweet with @username, put a period first!

.@nbarron, just read your blog post about how to tweet someone properly!


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