Twitter reply or mention: what’s the difference?

Twitter TipsHave you been sitting in your easy chair too much lately, pondering the subtle differences in how to respond to someone via Twitter? No? Good. Perhaps your real-world social life is healthier than mine. But for those of you wondering whether to use the Twitter reply or mention, and how they differ…well just kick back the recliner and take a few minutes while we go over when to use each one.

You might have come across an occasional tweet from someone in your twitter feed that looked a bit odd. They mentioned another user, and you noticed a period just in front of the username. What’s that all about? That’s someone paying attention to the difference between a reply and a mention, but in a way that has caused a lot of the confusion, I think.

Let’s look at an example tweet so we can define terms.

The Reply


Here, Marji sent me a quick “thanks” for tweeting about Bill’s interview of her in Inc. Magazine online. Notice that the tweet begins with my username, and nothing in front of it. When a tweet begins with a username, it’s considered a reply. This type of reply is considered public…sort of. It’s not private like a direct message, where only Marji and I would have seen it. But it will only show up in the home feed of users who follow both Marji and me.

Now…I consider Marji a real social media pro. If you’re interested in using social media for your brand and not following her already, you should fix that now ( @MarjiJSherman ). It’s clear that she just sent a quick ‘thanks’ from her phone. Frankly, I’m glad she even noticed my tweet and took the time to respond. Just saying “thanks” to someone doesn’t necessarily merit sharing that message with 112K other users, and a simple reply is appropriate. (She retweeted my original tweet, by the way, which is even better than the mention that didn’t happen here.)

The Mention

A mention is sent when a tweet doesn’t start with a username, but includes a username within the text. The tweets you’ve seen that start this way (ex. .@jeffmoser_com) are using a quick way of changing a reply to a mention. In my opinion, putting your message first and then including the username as a tag on the end will make your messages not only more readable for all your users, but comes across as a message meant for everyone.

So when should you use a mention rather than a reply? Given the example above, had Marji not already retweeted me, she could have chosen to share her “thank you” with all of her followers. Her message of thanks would have included exposure to a ton of users. With a mention, all of my followers—and Bill’s as well—would have seen this tweet in their home feed, whether they follow Marji or not. More importantly for Bill and me, who combined have only about 2% of Marji’s follower count, our usernames would have potentially been exposed to all of Marji’s followers. That could potentially mean an avalanche of new social connections. Hey…it could happen.

A more practical example might be where you’re answering a question about your company. If it’s a commonly asked question, that’s a learning opportunity for all of your followers. Make your tweet a mention, and it gets maximum exposure.

Okay, now that we have that straight, get out of that chair for a bit. Walk around the house or the yard for some exercise. While you’re at it, tweet a few mentions from your phone.

Just don’t walk into anything…

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