I’m sorry, but you’re still using Twitter wrong

Hi, how are you?  Are you sitting down?  Okay, good.

Listen, there’s something we should probably talk about.  It’s kind of been on my mind for a while.  I’ve brought it up before, but I don’t know if you just weren’t listening, or if maybe I just wasn’t forthright enough, because it doesn’t seem like much has changed.  But that doesn’t matter now.  What matters is that we are here together and we feel comfortable enough with one another that I can say this without offending you.  So, here goes…

You’re using Twitter wrong.

I know.  I know.  You’ve had an account for a few years now, and you really seem to enjoy tweeting.  That is what makes this so awkward.

Now, most of what you’re doing is right.  When it comes to tweeting about what you had for breakfast, or posting pictures of yourself in the mirror, you’re practically an expert.  And your retweets?  Top notch.  Your followers really seem to like your clever hashtags as well.

But here’s the bad news.  You don’t seem to understand that starting a tweet with a username is the same thing as an @reply and, when you begin a message like that, you are only making the tweet visible to THAT person, and anyone who happens to follow the both of you.  Here is what I mean.  This is what a reply looks like:

I know it’s shocking.  It looks the same as the stuff you’ve been tweeting, doesn’t it?  You’ve been thinking all along that all your followers have been seeing it.  But look, you didn’t know the rule about @Replies and public tweets.  And hey, it’s even a pretty common mistake.  People who have been using Twitter for a while keep making the same error as you.  But I care about you, and I want you to use Twitter right.  So here are a few examples I found online really quick of people using it wrong so you can see what I mean a little better.

Do you see what went wrong?  Uncle Fishbits wanted everyone to know that Ford celebrates stuff that Mercedes apparently did years before.  And Marley there would’ve liked folks to see the hijinks as captured in her Twitpic.  But the problem is, by beginning their tweet with the @Username, they’ve insured that far fewer people will ever see it.  In fact, those tweets will just show up in the reply box of @Ford and @Patrick_Burns, and won’t be seen by their intended audience unless, as I said earlier, people follow both Uncle Fishbits and Ford, or Marley and Patrick, respectively. 

Here are a couple more examples; this time with the Twitter tradition of Follow Friday.

Did you notice how both users just tagged a bunch of users and put the hashtag #FF at the end?  All that did, despite them wanting to showcase their friends, was send an @reply to each user they mentioned.  Very few people probably saw these tweets and knew who they should follow.  Certainly a lot less people than any of the users had intended.  I’ve found a few examples myself over the years only by creeping on a person’s Twitter page.  If only they had put that #FF at the beginning of their tweet, this whole thing could have been averted.

Okay, so now that you know the problem, have seen examples, and realize how you are using Twitter incorrectly, what’s next?  Don’t worry.  Hope is not lost.  All you have to do next time you want to begin a tweet with an @Username, is just put something before it.  Anything.  Even a period will do the trick.  This will let Twitter know that you aren’t just making a reply to someone, but instead are tweeting something to ALL of your followers.  And it doesn’t get in the way of the message.  For instance, check this out:

I just promoted my friends at Who Forted? and The Bent Spoon by placing a period at the beginning of my tweet.  That’s all you have to do to ensure your tweet doesn’t look like a reply.  It’s easy, it’s fun, and the people who follow you will finally be getting more out of your tweets.

I’m glad we had this talk.  If you have a friend, or know of a fellow tweeter who is making the same mistakes, feel free to show them this blog, or just share what you learned while reading it.  Knowing stuff is cool, and it also makes spending time on Twitter a lot more enjoyable.

Take it easy.  Talk to ya later.


3 thoughts on “I’m sorry, but you’re still using Twitter wrong

  1. Are you SURE about this? Don't these reply tweets appear in the public feed that anyone can see? I see them in other people's feeds. You've got me confused here. I'm skeptical of your claim. 😛

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