Taking the time to actively comment on people’s tweets can be a great way to start conversations and build relationships and networks on Twitter. Mentions and @replies are the tools that allow this to happen
The @ symbol is used to denote every Twitter account’s unique username – the username for the University’s main account for example is @uniofexeter.
When you include someone’s username (with the @ symbol and no spaces) within the body of a tweet this is called a mention.
Followers who see your tweet will be able to click on the username of the person you mention to find out more about them and follow them if they choose.
The person you mention will receive a notification that will appear in their notification tab when they next login to Twitter. Here they’ll be able to see your tweet along with any other tweets that mention them. By default Twitter also emails users when they receive a mention (this can be switched off but many people don’t bother) so it can be a great way of getting the attention of specific people even if they are not following you.
You might mention people for lots of different reasons, for example:
- to ask them a question
- to respond to something they’ve said
- to ask them to re-tweet something to their followers
- to make a complaint (the public nature of Twitter can make this a very effective way of getting problems resolved quickly!)
There’s a friendly tradition on Twitter each Friday where you mention accounts that you think are worth following in order to;
- get your followers to follow them too, and
- acknowledge that you like what they’re up to
You’ll usually see these with the hashtag #FF or #FollowFriday.
If you begin your tweet with somebody’s username this is called an @reply, these can be used to reply to or comment on a specific tweet that has gone out.
@replies are still mentions and therefore the person who’s username you include will still receive a notification, however your response will only show up in the home feeds of people that are following BOTH your account and the account you are replying to – users following one or the other will not see it.
To send an @reply click the reply icon next to the tweet you want to comment on and the compose box will open with the original tweeters username automatically inserted at the start.
@replying in this way will mean that your tweet is linked to the original tweet, and people who see it will have the option of viewing the original message too.
A common mistake
You can still start a Tweet with somebody’s username even if it is not an @reply, however this is one of the most frequent mistakes I see on Twitter.
Many people (usually businesses wishing to promote their products or services to our students) contact the current students account (@uoe_students) with our username at the start of their tweet in the hope that this will automatically be seen by all of our followers – it won’t. Again only the people following both accounts will see it, so fewer than just tweeting normally.
Web Marketing Officer for Academic Services