How to Use the Twitter @ Reply

Who can see a reply and where it will appear

Twitter @ Reply confuses a lot of people when they first start using Twitter, especially because it's hard to keep straight who can see a reply and where exactly it appears.

What Is a Twitter Reply?

A Twitter Reply is a tweet sent in direct response to another tweet. It's not the same thing as simply sending someone a tweet. To send one, navigate to the tweet you want to respond to and press the small Reply button underneath (it looks like a chat bubble). A new message window should appear. Type your reply into the box and select Tweet to send.

Your message automatically links to the tweet you responded to, so when anyone else reads your tweet, they can expand the thread and see the original message, too.

Who Sees Each Twitter @ Reply?

What's tricky is that not everyone will see the @Reply message you sent, perhaps not even the person to whom you sent it.

The person you're replying to has to follow you before your reply shows up in their homepage tweet timeline. If they're not following you, it only shows up in their Notifications tab, a special page every Twitterer has containing any Tweets that mention their username. Not everyone checks the @Connect tab regularly, though, so these messages are easy to miss.

The same goes for Twitter replies that might be directed toward you. If another user replies to one of your tweets, their @ reply message will only appear on your home page tweet timeline if you're following that particular sender. If not, it only appears in your @Notifications page.

The @reply tweet is still public, though, and other Twitter users can see it if they happen to visit the profile page of the sender and view their tweets shortly after it was sent.

Hand holding logo that looks like Twitter's blue bird.
Amanda Rohde / Getty Images

Whose Followers See Twitter @ Reply Messages? Hint: It's Not Who You Think!

As for your followers, your @Reply message only shows up in their tweet timelines if they're also following the person to whom you sent the reply. If they're following you, but not following the person you replied to, they won't see your reply tweet.

That's not understood by many people because it's not the way Twitter ordinarily works. Your followers usually see all of your tweets. So, who would guess if you send a public tweet by clicking the Twitter reply button, your followers won't see it unless they're also following the person whose tweet you replied to? It's hardly intuitive and it's one of the many reasons some people get frustrated with the complex nuances of Twitter's interface.

If you want all your followers to see a particularly witty or clever Twitter reply of yours, there's a little trick you can use. Just put a period in front of the @ symbol at the beginning of your reply. So, if you're sending a reply to a Twitter user named davidbarthelmer, for example, you would start your reply with, ".@davidbarthelmer."

All your followers will see that reply in their timelines. You can still use the Twitter reply button, just be sure to stick a period in front of the @username.

When to Use Twitter @ Reply

It's a good idea to be judicious in your use of the Twitter @ reply button. If you're trying to have a direct conversation with someone, be sure your tweets are interesting before you start sending a barrage of Twitter replies. While your Twitter @ reply message may be meant mainly for the person you're responding to, it will appear in the timeline of all of your mutual followers.

So, if you send three or four replies in a short period of time, and some of them are pretty trivial, that might get annoying for other people who may not be interested in your banter or small talk.

The best place for truly private Twitter banter is the Twitter DM or direct message channel. Messages sent using Twitter's direct message button are private, viewable only by the recipient.

Getting a Wider Audience for Twitter Replies

Alternatively, if you want a whole lot more people to see your replies, send a regular tweet and include the username of the person you're aiming your message at, but don't put it at the beginning of the tweet. Twitter replies always start with the @username of the person you're responding to, so technically this isn't an official Twitter reply. But if all you're trying to do is get the attention of a particular user and respond to something they said, it accomplishes that while also being viewable by all your followers. There's no need to stick a period in front of the username to make this kind of tweet viewable by your followers, because it's not technically a Twitter reply.

Twitter Mention vs. Twitter Reply

Putting a person's @username in a tweet is called a "mention" on Twitter, obviously because it mentions a specific username within the text of the tweet. It's directed at a particular user, and while it's in response to a particular tweet, it's technically not a Twitter reply. 

So, ultimately, if the tweet isn't created with the Reply button, or it doesn't have the username at the very beginning of the message, then it's not a Twitter Reply. But, it's seen by all your followers, and the person you're replying to sees it in their timeline if they're following you, and in their @Connect tab if they are not following you.

Dejargoning the Twitter Experience

Twitter jargon can get annoying. There's a lot of it, and simply defining a term doesn't always help, though Twitter does a decent job in its help center and this Twitter language guide can help, too. Still, it takes a while to learn how to use even some basic Twitter features.