Everything You Need To Know About Twitter Replies and Mentions

Replies set the cornerstone of Twitter’s communication capabilities. We use them every day in hopes of making new friends or keeping up with old ones.

A few months ago, Twitter made some changes to their @reply system that prevented people from seeing conversations out of context. Everyone freaked out and Twitter clarified on their changes. I personally like the changes Twitter made.

Now I just wanted to give everyone a quick refresher on the current status of how @replies work. I feel like I regularly come across other Tweeps having trouble following conversations on Twitter.

The Basics

Twitter’s @replies still follow a lot of their originally proposed functionality. One of the main things a lot of people forget is that when you click Twitter’s “swoosh” Reply Swoosh button, your reply is now directly associated with that tweet.

Twitter Reply Example

If you ever receive a reply that seems out of the blue, check Twitter for the “in reply to ..” text and click to see what the Tweet was a response to. Most popular Twitter apps also display the “in reply to ..” text as well. Remember that Twitter can only associate your replies to Tweets when you use the “swoosh” button. Once again, most of the more popular Twitter apps have also embraced this functionality so there are no excuses.

Replying to people in this manner will prevent your reply from showing up in other people’s timelines when they are not following the person you are replying to. This becomes especially useful if you find yourself replying to people all the time and you are worried about posting too often. In short, it is an easy way to filter out the noise.

However, just because you won’t see conversations out of context in your friend stream, doesn’t mean you can’t hop over to Twitter search and view all public conversations taking place. In fact, Twitter Search can even thread your replies to help organize your conversations. If you are looking to see threaded conversations in a normal Twitter-like environment you should check out TweeTree which also displays videos and unshortens links.


Mentions were adopted by Twitter when people started using @replies to reference other Tweeps in their tweets. The difference between replies and mentions is that when you mention someone you might not be talking directly to them. In this case, all of your followers would see your Tweet regardless of whether they are following the person you are mentioning or not.

Twitter Mention Example

Mentions won’t have the “in reply to ..” text because they are not necessarily directed at anyone.

Advanced Tweeting

You 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 conversation. It’s not always needed however there are times when you may wish to reply to someone and you want ALL of your followers to see the conversation taking place.

Advanced Twitter Reply Example

Remember that in the end, you can use Twitter however you damn please.

– Photo by db*photography

14 replies on “Everything You Need To Know About Twitter Replies and Mentions”

Thanks! Are you going to write one about RTs? Some people RT with their comment before it, some put it after the tweet, some don’t separate the RT from their comment, some use | or some use >>. I guess it is up to your own preference though.

Nice! Jon, someone tweeted to me that the . before the @ breaks up a conversation so it can’t be followed. Not quite sure what that means, but I’m going to have him post his comment on my post for clarification. I don’t want to give anyone bad advice.

Hey Jon, could you explain some about the #subjects we can follow at times? You know those popular subjects that come up on the side. How are the popular subjects decided? and is it possible to start a subject for everyone to give feedback on, or is this controlled by Twitter?


The #subjects are hastags. It’s just an easy way to associate your tweets with a specific conversation. People usually use them during events. I wrote more about them here.

The “Trending Topics” on the left of your Twitter page are just the most popular words showing up within a certain time period. They usually reflect something happening in pop culture but every once and awhile something silly slips through like #whentwitterwasdown.

Anyone can create their own hashtag to start an organized conversation. It usually helps to get some other people on it first so others want to join in.

what if you *begin* a tweet with someone’s name (e.g., @username), but that tweet is *not* a reply to another tweet; it’s a new tweet. who sees that tweet? is it public?

this is not answered *anywhere* in twitter’s help documents. it describes “replies” as just that — replies to other tweets. and “mentions” mention someone in the *body* of a tweet.

but what if you put someone’s name (@username) at the *beginning* of a tweet that’s not a reply? who sees it?

WordPress considers it a mention although it is at the beginning of the tweet. The only difference is you wont see the “in reply to” text as it is not a reply to a specific tweet.

– Edit –

Sorry didn’t answer the question. Only the person you are sending it to will see it in their twitter stream unless you are following them. It’s still considered a reply although its not in response to a specific tweet because it’s at the beginning.

i’m very confused and i can’t find an answer that explains what i need to know. when i reply to a tweet where should my reply text be? before the persons’s name, (my reply @them), or after, (@them my reply)? i have replied both ways to people i follow but never seem to get any response. i understand that some may ignore those they do not follow but i have replied to several people and made dozens of replies and nothing. a screen cap of the correct format would do nicely, thank you.

does anybody know how to stop someone else’s mentions coming up on my phone (iphone 4), as i obviously dont want to read them! – its only one persons mentions, but its annoying! PLEASE someone help ASAP!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *