Twitter Clinic: Who sees what you’re tweeting

By Linda Cheung

clip_image002In the last Twitter Clinic I explained the “mystifying acronyms” #FF, DM and RT. After explaining DMs it was interesting to hear that many newbies thought @replies were private and only seen by the person they were replying to…


Twitter defines a reply as “a tweet that begins with another user’s username and is in reply to one of their tweets”. For example, CubeSocial is replying to a previous Craig Killick tweet here:


Some newbies thought that only the recipient (Craig) would see this tweet / the tweet would be private between the sender (CubeSocial) and the recipient. This is not true. Anyone following the sender and the recipient will also see this tweet in their timeline, and this tweet could appear in any number of public searches. Be aware of this and your digital footprint!


While @replies begin with a username, @mentions do not. @mentions are sometimes referred to as “broadcast” tweets that happen to include usernames. For example:


In this case, the sender (Gideon)’s tweet will appear in the timeline of everyone who follows the sender, plus anyone who follows the sender and either/both of the recipients (Mark and/or me). This tweet will also appear both recipients’ @Mentions pages, and can be searched as with @replies above. RTs are a type of mention because “RT @<username>” is added to the start of the tweet. For example:



Knowing the difference between @replies and @mentions means you can influence who sees your tweets. To share information as broadly as possible, use @mentions. Otherwise, use @replies [and if you’d like to keep your tweets private, use DMs].

So, when you want to thank and recommend someone, send a @mention:


If you want to quote someone, @mention by adding a full stop before their username or give their username at the end:


Where you don’t want to crowd your followers’ timeline / it’s a more personal chat, @reply:


Please use this knowledge to spread a little @mention cheer!

Craig Killick - June 17, 2011

I found out recently you can Direct message someone straight in your timeline by typing “D @user” straight into your timeline.

Margie Hearron - October 7, 2013

Thanks for explaining it so clearly. 🙂 I’ve been trying to learn Twitter. It’s like people on Twitter won’t teach the newbies so we have to go hunt for info on how to learn the platform. You have the best and simplest take on @reply/@mention that I’ve seen. Again, Thanks. 🙂

ThinkDreamCreate - October 19, 2013

what margie said. thanks

    Linda Cheung - May 11, 2014

    You’re very welcome. My reply to Margie may be of interest to you too… 🙂

Barry - September 9, 2014

Let’s see, if I understand correctly. If I say in a tweet: Hi @disqus_kFal7uDg2M:disqus It’s a mention. It’s a reply when I tweet: @margiehearron:disqus Hello.

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