How to Reply on Twitter

Who can see a reply and where it will appear

The @ Reply confuses many people when they first start using Twitter, especially because it's hard to keep straight who can see a reply and where 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 as sending someone a tweet. Here's how to reply to a Tweet:

  1. Navigate to the tweet you want to respond to and select the Reply button underneath (it looks like a chat bubble).

    The Reply button on Twitter
  2. A new message window appears. Type your reply into the box.

    A reply on Twitter
  3. Select Reply to send.

    The Reply button on Twitter

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.

Who Sees Each Twitter @ Reply?

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 must follow you before your reply shows in their homepage tweet timeline. If they don't follow you, it only shows up in their Notifications tab, a special page every Twitter user has that contains Tweets that mention their username or handle. Not everyone checks the Mentions 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 only appears on your home page tweet timeline if you follow that sender. If not, it only appears on your Notifications page.

The @ Reply tweet is public and other Twitter users can see it if they visit the profile page of the sender and view their tweets after it was sent.

Hand holding logo that looks like Twitter's blue bird.

Amanda Rohde / Getty Images

As for your followers, your @ Reply message only shows up in their tweet timelines if they follow the person to whom you sent the reply. If they follow you but don't follow 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 your tweets. So, when you send a public tweet by clicking the Twitter reply button, your followers won't see it unless they also follow the person whose tweet you replied to. It's one reason why some people get frustrated with the nuances of Twitter.

If you want all your followers to see a Twitter reply of yours, there's a little trick you can use. Put a period in front of the @ symbol at the beginning of your reply. So, if you send a reply to a Twitter user named davidbarthelmer, for example, start your reply with .@davidbarthelmer.

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

Another way to publicly share a reply is to not reply but Quote Tweet someone else's Tweet. That means retweeting a tweet but including your comment in it.

When to Use Twitter @ Reply

It's a good idea to be judicious in your use of the Twitter @ Reply button. When you have a direct conversation with someone, be sure your tweets are interesting before you send a barrage of Twitter replies. While your Twitter @ Reply message may be meant for the person you're responding to, it appears in the timeline of your mutual followers.

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

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

Getting a Wider Audience for Twitter Replies

Alternatively, if you want 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 this isn't an official Twitter reply. But if you want to get the attention of a user and respond to something they said, it accomplishes that while also being viewable by 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 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, if the tweet isn't created with the Reply button, or it doesn't have the username at the beginning of the message, it's not a Twitter Reply. However, it is seen by your followers, and the person you're replying to sees it in their timeline if they follow you, as well as their @Connect tab if they don't follow you.

De-Jargoning the Twitter Experience

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

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