How Twitter Replies Work

Twitter is a fantastic medium for communicating one-on-one or en masse, but how that communication works (or doesn’t) is sometimes confusing. I think the thing that trips people up more than anything else is the reply function; when you @username somebody. When people want to reply directly to just one person, they often share the tweet with everybody who follows them.  Conversely, when they want to mention another user on Twitter but share it with everybody, they often only send their message to that person. So how are you supposed to understand this syntax? How do Twitter replies work?

It all comes down to this: if your tweet starts with a username (e.g. @mattsingley) then it will only be seen by that person and anybody who follows both you and them. If your tweets starts with any character or symbol other than the @ symbol, it will be potentially* seen by everybody that follows you, whether or not they also follow the person mentioned.

This can be confusing, so let me show you a couple of examples.

Example 1: Direct Reply

In the tweet above, you’ll see that I started with @ and Adam’s username. Since there is nothing else before the @ symbol, only Adam and those who follow me AND Adam will see this in their timeline. Note that they can still go directly to my Twitter page, look through my history of tweets and see this. Starting a tweet with @ doesn’t block this tweet from public viewing (that is what Direct Messages are for), but it won’t be included in timelines as people look at their feed on their desktop or mobile. This method is my favorite aspect of Twitter; the conversation. You can tweet back and forth with a person (or several people) without overwhelming every person that follows you with your personal conversation. 

Examaple 2: Username Mention

This tweet is different from the first tweet in that it has a period before the @ symbol in the tweet.  This means that everybody that follows me will potentially see this, whether or not they also follow Adam.  Don’t get hung up on the period, I only use that because it’s subtle and doesn’t visually take away from the sentence. It could be a quotation mark, a comma or even a full word. The point that you need to understand is that something has to come before the @ symbol in the tweet. A lot of people like to start with a word so it feels like it is part of the comment.  For example, when griping about a brand online, people love to start with “Hey”. They’ll tweet “Hey @gianttelco, just wanted to let you know your customer service is terrible…”.  A note here: just mentioning a user later in your Tweet doesn’t mean you have to put a “.” at the start of your tweet. It’s not necessary as long as your tweet starts with anything other than a @username.

Summary: if you want to have a conversation with just one person, start your tweet with their username, making sure that the @ symbol in their name is the very first character you use.  If you want to mention another Twitter user, but be sure that those that follow you see it, put any symbol (like a period) at the beginning of the tweet before their user name.

*”Potentially seen by everybody that follows you” means that it isn’t guaranteed to be seen by everybody.  In fact, the very nature of Twitter insures that most people that follow you won’t see your tweet unless they happen to be logged in when you post your tweet.  Remember that Twitter is chronological (for now, that will change soon) and unlike Facebook, doesn’t sort tweet with an algorithm. If you have an important tweet that really should be seen my a lot of people, post it a few times throughout the course of the day, or spend money on a promoted campaign


Facebook Rolls Out More Robust Insights

Facebook announced at F8 They Will Roll Out More Robust Insights and AnalyticsI’m not at the F8 conference today, but I have been reading the news and keeping up with the announcements.  So far, the most exciting stories I have read have to do with Facebook Insights, the dashboard for page admins. If you run a fan page (now called a “like” page, I suppose) for a brand, agency or just for yourself, this is important information.

To date, the Insights have been underwhelming.  They have covered only the most basic information, and as somebody who works with big brands to engage and guide the community, I’ve got to say they have been less than helpful.  It seems that all of that changes today, however.  Facebook has announced “Facebook for Web Sites” and have already published full documentation about it.  The insight to user behavior should be interesting, as Facebook says:

“Once your app is up-and-running, you can get detailed analytics about the demographics of your users and how users are sharing from your application with Insights.

Continue reading

Happy Foursquare Day (And How To Get Your Badge)

Foursquare Day Today! #4sqdayIt’s Foursquare day, what are you going to do to celebrate? No, not the super awesome kids’ game that you played when you were younger, but rather an ad hoc celebration of the geo-location social media platform.

If you aren’t familiar with Foursquare, it’s a service that sprung up last year and has really hit the scene (at least the geek/tech scene) with fervor this year.  I’ve been a fan of it for some time, going as far as to call it the “next” social network way back in October 2009. So today is a day of virtual celebration for all of the mayors, checker-inners and social media geeks, it’s April 16th! (Get it? Four squared is 16….4/16…..)

There are a few things that make today that special day, but one of them is a new badge, just for this occasion.  Today only, when you check in to your favorite local haunt, make sure you give a shout out to Foursquare Day and include the hashtag #4sqday…you’ll be rewarded by unlocking the cool new badge that tells the world you are an uber-geek.

Continue reading

How RFPs are Born [Video]

A big hat tip to @acmackie for sending this over…absolutely hilarious!  If you work in agency land, this requires no further explanation.  If you aren’t in agency land, let me set this video up for you.

An RFP is a “request for proposal”.  People at various levels of responsibility that work at marketing and creative agencies get a lot of these, and they are usually at the last minute.  When multiple agencies are working in unison to try to piece something together for a client, well…it gets a little crazy.  Countless hours of phone calls and a seemingly endless stream of emails begin, all trying to put together a presentation deck (a PowerPoint), taking up dozens or hundreds of labor hours.  As this video mentions at one point, it’s likely that the client won’t even open it. I love the computer-voice line “we may only send you one idea, since the decks we send you, you never even open”, hahaha!

If you live in a world of RFPs, please take a moment from the current deck you are working on and watch this.  You’ll thank me.

Renewing The Line Between Public And Private

When Is Public Info TOO Public?I’ve been thinking about the ever-increasing blurry line between public and private lives now that social media is mainstream.  I’ve personally been opening myself up to the world for about a decade; I started blogging by developing my own (very basic) blogging platform before the term “blog” was popular…and I haven’t looked back since then.

There have been a couple of times that I was alarmed by what people are capable of thinking or doing.  A few years ago I started getting anonymous comments on various videos of my children, asking me to pose them in certain ways or have them do certain things.  Naturally I deleted all traces of the videos online (yes it is possible) and became very aware of what I was posting after that.  Although I was always careful to never name them or reveal the location of my children even before this incident, I became very protective after that and have been quite conscious of what I would and would not publish.  Over the years I have become more widely known because of my marketing and social media work, and although I’m certainly a small fish in a big pond, I do have a lot of connections with people that I’ve never met face to face.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my social media life.  I’ve turned so many of my digital-first relationships into real-life relationships, and I love social media and the way it connects the world. But, and there is always a but…

Continue reading

Vodafone Gaffs On Twitter: What Happened?

Since I oversee or run large corporate social media accounts and the company I work for is responsible for dozens of Fortune 500 brands, stories like this make me cringe.

Earlier today, the very large, very well known UK mobile company Vodafone posted an incredibly inappropriate tweet on their official company Twitter account.  It said VodafoneUK  “is fed up of dirty homo’s and is going after beaver“.


Needless to say, this is not something that any company would want published on their behalf.  I don’t know if Vodafone runs their social programs through an agency or internally, but either way it’s obvious that there was a breakdown of protocol.  I suspect one of two probable scenarios that would lead to something like this.  First, it’s possible that it is a disgruntled employee that was either on their way out the door already or was ready to be fired, because certainly somebody is getting disciplined for this.  Second, and what I think is more likely, is that a single dashboard was being used (perhaps something like CoTweet) to update business and personal accounts.

They responded in what I think is the best possible way: acknowledging it and apologizing profusely all day long on their Twitter account.  Many companies would be tempted to delete the tweet and then pretend it never happened, refusing to reply to anybody that pointed it out.  I’m glad Vodafone has taken this approach, but I also hope they will tell us how the “severe breach of rules” happened so that all of us can learn from this mistake.

Community managers take note: be extremely careful with your updates, and don’t mix up your personal and corporate updates!

Social Media Responsibility, Fact Checking (and Racism!)

Today we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., and as such I intended to not post anything about social media, instead choosing to focus on the hope and vision that Dr. King believed in. That has changed after reading today’s blog post by Penelope Trunk, the Brazen Careerist; I have now decided to write about both social media and racism.  After reading her inflammatory post about what she considers to be a “racist rodeo” I got to the kicker…her very last line incites her users to publicly lambaste the McDonald’s corporation on Twitter, telling them that we won’t put up with racism and hate. The obvious inference here is that McDonald’s does indeed support both racism and hate by supporting the All-Star Rodeo, and event that Ms. Trunk determined to be full of racist clowns and cowgirls that are only interested in threesomes. My big problem with all of this? She didn’t bother to fact check before calling up an angry mob. I brought this to her attention in the comments section, but she seemed to shrugs it off as if facts had nothing to do with it.

In this day and age of social media people can, and do, often write and publish opinion as if it were fact. As I write this, I still do not know if McDonald’s does officially sponsor the rodeo or not, but I have reached out to them for comment. Taking a step back, to so broadly describe the rodeo as racist because of one person’s obviously emotional blog post is, in my opinion, a mistake. Social Media allows anybody to publish anything at anytime. Most people that do this have small audiences, but some, like Ms. Trunk, actually get a pretty big following. I don’t know where the breaking point is, but certainly it must be acknowledged that at a certain point a person does have a certain amount of social responsibility when they have such a large audience.

Continue reading

Embrace The Crowd Or Die

TowerRecordsIf I were to ask you what social media is, you would probably pause for a moment then give me a pretty decent description of user generated material; you would use words like listen, engage and share…and more than likely you would mention (or at least think of) Facebook and/or Twitter.  Do you think it would be difficult to describe social media without these two services? Although social media is so much larger than any one company, there is no doubt that many companies make up a critical portion of this ever growing, ever changing landscape.

Imagine then what social media would be like if Facebook decided to keep their community confined to college students only.  What if Twitter really did make you answer the question “what are you doing?” and excluded external links, retweets and other crowd-sourced behavior? The reason that social media is the way is it today is because Twitter and Facebook, along with countless other services, adopted to the powerful voice of the crowd. They didn’t let pride or “what they knew to be true” hold them back from making smart, and undoubtedly difficult, business decisions.  Embracing the crowd is always challenging, it means you lose a certain amount of control…and to many that is a scary proposition.

Continue reading

FTC Guidelines For Social Media And My Disclosure

ftc_logo-300x300December 1 is soon upon us, and that means that the FTC will be watching social media (I think bloggers particularly) very closely as it is related to disclosure of products and services. In a nutshell, don’t shill online if you haven’t disclosed that you got something for it, money or otherwise.  Good news for me, I am an open book and simply don’t talk about stuff that I don’t want to and really talk up stuff that I like…paid or not.  However, if I have not made it perfectly clear, just wanted everybody to know who has paid my bills at one point or another, or given me cool stuff to check out.  I am going to keep this list dynamic and current on my Disclosures page. If you want a good FAQ page for the FTC guidelines look here, if you really want to read the entire text, check out the PDF here.

I work with a lot of brands, running social media programs in all shapes and sizes. As such, I want to be perfectly open and clear about who I work for and who I do not. It would be impractical to list companies and brands that I frequently mention that I do not work for (there are far too many), but I will list those with in some capacity. Between my previous consultancy and my current position as Senior Director of Social Media Strategy at M80 I get to do some pretty amazing things with some really exceptional companies. Below is a list of organizations that I have (or had) a professional association with in some way.

Continue reading

Why Foursquare Is The Next Social Network

foursquare.jpgIf you’ve been following me on Twitter for any length of time you’ve recently seen some funny updates like, “I’m at LAX Terminal 3” or “I just became the mayor of Finnegan’s Wake on @foursquare”.  Some people know what this is, most do not.  These updates are being pushed over to Twitter from the new social network Foursquare, a service that I signed up with a couple of months ago.  I believe it is the next service to watch, and I want to tell you why.

First of all…I referred to Foursquare as a social network, but inside the business walls I’ve been calling it a “location aware ad platform”.  There are implications and advantages for both the average user as well as business, and I’ll break it down for both after a brief introduction.

Continue reading