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How to Use @Reply in Twitter Messages

March 11th, 2009 · 37 Comments

@reply is a great feature in Twitter. You can use it to draw the attention of a specific Twitter user to a message, but let the Twitterverse in on it as well (as opposed to direct messages, which are private but can only be sent to people who follow you).

Most people use @reply to send a message to a specific user, like this:

@aldos You have CIWS (Corporate IT Withdrawal Syndrome). Keeping all emails to CYA is a classic symptom.

or like this:

@pkirkham Could you please DM me your email id?

I find @replies a bit annoying if they are used in excess, especially if there are extended periods of back-and-forth between a person I follow and a person I don’t. I’ve also found that some people use @replies in ways that don’t annoy me. Here are some tips for using @replies that I think are useful:

Make an @reply about a person as much as it is to a person
Here’s a good example:

Looks like @aldos is working on getting un-followed again with his heretofore twitter style point deficit.

I like this use of @reply. It tells me I’ve been annoying, but it’s not really just to me.

This tweet, from my friend and boss @mherrick66, was a response to a bit of spamming I did as an experiment to promote Uladoo. I sent @messages to about 8 different people I didn’t know but thought might be interested in Uladoo. Which brings up the next point:

Don’t use @reply to spam people
If you want to send a message to a specific person, hoping for a re-tweet, follow them. If they follow you back, send them a direct message. Especially if you are going to send the same message to several different people who don’t know you from @adam.

Don’t start your @reply with @reply
Sending a tweet that starts with @reply is like starting a letter with “Dear David”. That’s actually fine and normal for private correspondence, but that’s not what an @reply is. Starting a tweet with @aldos sends a strong signal to everyone else that this is not to them.

Don’t have extended conversations in twitter that are meaningless to followers
If you only follow one participant in a long twitter conversation, you know what I mean already. Here’s an example:

@junebug I think that idea sucks
@junebug Well, it doesn’t take into account the balance sheet
@junebug Yeah, if monkeys were accountants
@junebug No, I can’t do that today

I could go follow @junebug and find out what this is all about, but I’d rather the author just followed my first rule. She could have done this easily by simply replacing “it” and “that” with whatever she is referring to. For example, here’s how I would fix the last tweet.

I wish I could go to Gruberg’s talk on financial accountability with @junebug today, but can’t cuz of PTA.

Note: this conversation is totally made up. There probably is a twitter user named @junebug, so let me apologize in advance.

If @reply doesn’t add to your message, just drop it
Consider this tweet:

@testobsessed Good Morning! have a great day

How is it any better than this?

Good Morning! have a great day

Before you send an @reply, take out the @ part and see if it makes a difference. If it doesn’t, send it without the @.

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Tags: Uncategorized

37 responses so far ↓

  • 1 kofno // Mar 11, 2009 at 8:27 am

    I don’t understand the @ angst. Twitter has settings so you only see replies if you follow both people. And if someone completely blacks out on replies, unfollow for a while.

  • 2 Nate // Mar 11, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Do you know you can set twitter to show you only @replies that are to people you already follow? I found that made a huge difference in my use of twitter. IMO, it should be the default way to use twitter. Also causes me to disagree with not starting a @reply with @reply. That is the point. So followers know who you are responding to.

  • 3 davidray // Mar 11, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Hi Nate,
    I didn't know that – thanks for pointing it out.

    I don't think it changes the point about @reply at the front though, cuz you can't control which of your followers use that setting. That said, I definitely don't think this particular point matters as much as the first one I made. If you do the first well, I don't think it's a huge problem if put @reply in the front.


  • 4 Paul // Apr 20, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you for this guide.

    I didn't even know what @reply did on Twitter.


  • 5 melissa // May 8, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Hey ! I just join twitter but i dont know how to use it !
    How can I know if someone reply to me???? i mean it doesnt apear in my proffile , do I have to go to settings or someting? or how can i Know if someone reply to me, if Im not following him/her ??
    thank you :)

  • 6 PB // May 27, 2009 at 4:39 am

    I don’t understand the @ angst. Twitter has settings so you only see replies if you follow both people. And if someone completely blacks out on replies, unfollow for a while.

  • 7 jenni_lou84 // Jul 9, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    When I sent someone a reply message how come it shows up on my updates but not on the other persons page aswell. Since it only shows on my page did the person I sent it to get the message?

  • 8 TwtrCoach – The Simple Twitter Coach » 9 Ways To Improve your Twitter @ replies and mentions // Jul 13, 2009 at 11:32 am

    […] How to Use @Reply in Twitter Messages […]

  • 9 Audrey // Jul 14, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Haha thanks for sharing! :)

    Follow me hehe

  • 10 Deb // Jul 24, 2009 at 3:56 am

    I'm still trying to figure this out, too! If anyone has a website or info on usage, let me know.

  • 11 Protwit // Jul 28, 2009 at 1:30 am

    We're talking about speaking in public – it's like restaurant etiquette. There should be a 'shush' option.

  • 12 Protwit // Jul 28, 2009 at 1:33 am

    Err…unless you're going to start using private VOIP networks.
    Good lord – can you imagine the chatter on a Facebook-styled VOIP party line?

  • 13 befuddled // Aug 21, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    did u find the solution? if so can u tell me? cos i have the same problem

  • 14 Exploring the Social Interwebs with Adrian Eden » The evolution of search // Aug 27, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    […] next thing you know there are a number of travel companies following me on Twitter, sending me @messages about the flights and offers they […]

  • 15 erika // Sep 18, 2009 at 12:04 am

    when you read an @reply on someones page, is that what they wrote to someone or what someone wrote to them?

  • 16 louise // Oct 13, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    why did u snd me a reply?

  • 17 louise // Oct 13, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Well jus ask a pro if u can't do it urslf!

  • 18 louise // Oct 13, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    HELLO TWITTER REPLIERS R U OUT THERE? OR R U JUS BE@N LAAAZZZYYYYY!!!!!!CaTcH'''''!!!Now please send me a message bak frm dis comment!

  • 19 BayTheMoon // Nov 13, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    I sent a message to a Trend page, I didn't use the @ or # symbols, just a straightforward message, but it never showed on the Trend page, just my own home page. Does that mean none of my Tweets are getting through?

  • 20 samiksha // Dec 6, 2009 at 2:02 am

    Hey! If I'm following a person on Twitter, but he is not following me back, and I reply to his tweets, then would he be able to read my replies….? even if he's not following me?

  • 21 maxpayne79 // Jan 13, 2010 at 9:18 am

    i have the exact same question and i cannot find an answer anywhere on the web. very frustrating.

  • 22 kress // Jan 28, 2010 at 8:34 am

    im confuse too. i have been sending messages like @username.. and noone has tweet me back. wth ? am i doing something wrong ? darn it. i need more friends add me ! =)

  • 23 justintime777 // Feb 6, 2010 at 2:48 am

    I replied back to a friend, she can see my reply on her page, but when I look at her page I only see her half of the conversation. I can see the full conversation on my page. So strange.

  • 24 Jenny // Mar 9, 2010 at 8:18 am

    I just read somewhere else that they can.

  • 25 Deana // Mar 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    i was about to ask the same question…anyone have solution for our question?

  • 26 Ben // Apr 3, 2010 at 2:47 am

    Yeah, that whole @reply thing is stupid and confusing.

  • 27 Rose Campbell // Apr 9, 2010 at 1:12 am

    I send replies and it never shows up on the other person's page. I hit the reply button and then type in my message. What am I doing wrong?

  • 28 bazoomba26 // Jun 27, 2010 at 11:28 am

    my question is same as samiksha's that if i'm following someone n that someone is not following me but when i send any messages to him are they recieving it or am i making a jackass out of myself

  • 29 littlepiranha // Jun 30, 2010 at 4:46 am

    My problem is that someone who I am following sent me a direct message but they are not following me. So I was wondering if I do the @reply, will they get mt message?

  • 30 BogOff // Aug 28, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    … Anywhoo , why are you guys asking ‘Nate’ questions about twitter problems for gods sake , he was just giving you a random guide :L if you want answers ask someone who KNOWS what theyre talking about @_@
    Just my opinion, saoirse.

  • 31 Twitter 101 – A Guide to Your Next Value Added Community! » The Cutting Edge // Nov 29, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    […] name after the @ symbol (this is called an @reply, here is a great article with more information How to Use @Reply in Twitter Messages). You can thank them for their contribution to your area of interest, ask them a question, or […]

  • 32 Enjoy Life // Feb 15, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Thanks David,
    Some nice tips and ideas about Twitter etiquette.
    Quite helpful.
    ~ Rory

  • 33 PAULA // Apr 15, 2011 at 9:56 am


  • 34 A Round Up of Twitter Advice For Musicians | Ells' Blog // Apr 21, 2011 at 6:05 am

    […] in that last sentence, then read this getting started guide from Twitter, more info on hashtags and @messages – it’s ok, I’ll […]

  • 35 Hotmail // Jul 31, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Fortunately the Twitter dev team has improved the use of mentions. Now if you want to retweet something, you don’t have to do it manually, avoiding unwanted mentions like RT @username :)

  • 36 isiah // Sep 11, 2011 at 1:56 am

    i always use @reply but i guess my messages were not sent. i tried it and i end up with nothing?? what is the sign that my message is received by someone? thank you so much.

  • 37 Marj // Jan 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Hi. I want to know why I’m not getting any replies to my tweets. I’m using kindle, iPad and iPhone. Is there a reason why? Do I need to enable something?