Stop Making This One Mistake On Twitter

By Brian Murray

Twitter is awesome. You are given 140 characters to share information about yourself, links to what you are reading, and even tweet to your hero hoping for a reply. Twitter has made the world smaller. Information flies around like no other medium in the course of human history. In its basic form, Twitter is pretty simple. However, there is one mistake I have seen by a variety of brands and even more by people. Twitter users do not understand the correct use of  the @ symbol.

Difference between a @Reply and a @Mention:

Some quick definitions and further explanation below

@Reply: A public tweet where the target person receives a notification about the tweet. It starts with the @ symbol. It does not show up in the timeline of all followers.

@Mention: A public tweet where the person who is mentioned receives a notification. It also shows up in the timeline of everyone who follows the tweeter. It does NOT start with @ but starts with anything else.

The Scenario:

You've written a great post, read an article about your favorite brand, or attended an event. In your excitement to tweet, you post: @LikeableMedia hosted a great event today! I learned so much from everyone! You should all follow them!!!

When you begin a Tweet with the @ symbol, the only person who will be notified about the tweet is the target. Furthermore, the only people who will see the tweet in his or her timeline are people who follow both you AND @LikeableMedia. It will be visible in your personal timeline if someone goes to your profile but it will quickly be lost in all of your other activity!

Why does this matter?

If you are hard at work developing content or trying to change the world in a single tweet, the people who see your tweet is just as important as the message! Would you send a single email to tell the world that you just figured out how we can achieve World Peace?

A tweet that you painstakingly craft would be lost if you start it with the @ symbol.

The Test: 

Take a look at these and think to yourself, who would see them?

Tweet from @BTMurr: @Ottogrl Hope you have an amazing birthday!

  • This tweet would only be seen by those following both @BTMurr and @Ottogrl.

Tweet from @Ottogrl: Thank you so much @BTMurr for the birthday wishes!

  • Anyone who follows @Ottogrl would see this tweet.

Tweet from @ESPN: @JLin7 does it again! Leads the @NYKnicks to another victory!

  • Only those who follow both @ESPN and @JLin7 can see this tweet.

Tweet from @Mashable: Check out this post by @DaveKerpen about @LikeableMedia http://on.mash.to/w1XLTm'

  • This tweet can be seen by anyone who follows @mashable.

Got it?

Two Fixes:

  1. If you must start with a Twitter handle at the beginning of a tweet, add something in front of it. I've seen many brands and users using a period at the beginning to the effect of: .@BTMurr wrote this post but I already knew about this, do you? LINK Personally, I don't prefer this method as I think it looks strange. I would suggest using number 2.
  2. If you are thinking: .@FrankRamblings have you read the latest about @Instagram? http://on.mash.to/AjdjzY Do this: Just read this great post about @Instagramhttp://on.mash.to/AjdjzY - What are your thoughts @FrankRamblings?

What mistakes have you seen by people and brands on Twitter?