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


5 Social Media Gifts I Want From Santa

Matt Singley and Santa Clause Christmas 2010

All I want for Christmas (besides this creepy photo) is on my Social Media wish list

The holidays are upon us! Some celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Solstice, some celebrate Christmas. No matter your preference, I think we can all agree it’s a great time to reflect on the year behind us, be thankful for what we have today, and look to next year with hope and expectations.  Given the spirit of the season, I’ve put together a little list of things that I’ve asked Santa Clause for this year…in social media.  It’s a crazy list for sure, but if my 5 year old son can ask for a trip to the moon (and expect it to happen) I can dream big too!  I’m going to put out a plate of extra-special cookies and hope that ol’ Saint Nick brings me…

  • Hyperlinks within Tweets. Can you imagine having an extra 20 spaces or so (that’s what a typical link takes up) to say whatever you want? Instead of a tweet looking like this: “Check out this post I wrote about the upcoming Facebook Page Admin Controls and let me know what you are looking fwd to” (exactly 140 characters) it would look like this: “Check out this post I wrote about the upcoming Facebook Page Admin Controls and let me know what you are looking fwd to the very most y’all!” (still 140 characters but with more room to chat!)
  • Robust Admin Controls for Facebook Pages. I saw a sneak peak of them a while back when Facebook accidentally rolled out some new changes (you can see what I saw here) and it was definitely a step in the right direction.  Still, I would like better Insights (analytics) and the ability to ban users from a page without just flagging them.  I don’t want to wait for somebody at Facebook to *maybe* get around to it at some point. I get REALLY tired of the “first” and “gay” comments that go up on large pages all the time, but I have no tolerance for users that use hate language, attack individuals, constantly swear or link to porn
  • Overlay for YouTube videos. No, not just annotations, I want to be able to overlay the videos with graphic images.  You know…put a floating logo in the bottom corner (clickable of course), insert a graphic in the background…neat things like that. Sure, I can do this in a video editor then upload, but I would like to use full controls within YouTube proper so I can make cool SWF commands happen
  • Lists for friends in Foursquare. I treat Foursquare in a similar way as Twitter but with slightly tighter control.  Knowing that, I have a lot of “friends” on Foursquare that I would like to break into smaller groups so I can check on them in a more controlled and manageable way.  Kind of like Twitter Lists, but for Foursquare.  Foursquare Lists, anyone?
  • Dynamic backgrounds on Twitter. Everything else with Twitter has advanced over time…why not the backgrounds? Since the redesign, putting together a nice background (within the whopping 40 pixels on the left for people that view the page on a 1024×768 screen) has been a challenge to say the least.  Instead of outdated CSS and a static image I would love some basic HTML function so I could put up links to my other pages

We’ll see if I’ve been naughty or nice, I’m hoping to get these simple gifts under the virtual Christmas tree this year.  As you head into the weekend (hopefully with loved ones), I will leave you with a paraphrase of a famous work:

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And wrote up the meta tags, then turned with a jerk,

And laying his mouse aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his keyboard, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all coded like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he uploaded out of sight,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

How To: Use The New Tweet Button

<–See that little button right there? Click it. Go ahead…give it a try.

What should have happened is that a new window popped open prompting you to tweet out this article to your followers, which you of course did, right? You didn’t? Okay, one more try. Push the button, then click the “tweet” button in the new window.

Good job.

The new Tweet Button from Twitter is designed to replace the very popular TweetMeme button.

What you just experienced was the new Twitter button that is designed to take the place of the TweetMeme button that everybody has been using up to this point.  As you can see, I’m now using both…I’ll probably phase out TweetMeme when this takes over and people know what they are looking for.

Using this new Twitter button on your blog or site is actually pretty easy.  Go to the official Tweet Button page and go through three very easy steps

  1. Select your style of button and then customize it if you want. The button selection is very basic, it’s a matter of picking which style visually flows with your site the best. I really like the customization features, you can let it pull text from the title of the page, or enter your own text.  Get creative with this.  Nice options for different languages as well, although I’m not sure that allowing URLs that are different from the page being tweeted is a good idea…too much bait and switch to be had here
  2. Recommend people to follow. I like this! It goes beyond just mentioning the person that wrote the article and lets you put in another name and description of how they are related.  Pretty cool, great for encouraging follows.
  3. Grab the code! This show you what your tweet button will look like, and provides the code for an easy copy/paste.  Here’s what I like about this: it’s kind of a stab at the premise of Facebook’s Open Graph in that you can put this code on any website.  Seriously, it’s not just blogs…try it out! This code is super portable and can potentially drive a lot of tweet awareness about your site.

I really like what I’m seeing from Twitter on this…I expect to see a lot of creative implementations on different sites.  Much like being able to “like” individuals products and services via Facebook, I imagine this will be used to no just promote a site, but individual pages and products within the site. So far there isn’t a plugin for WordPress, but I have no doubt that it isn’t too far behind as there is a Dev Page that explains the attributes.

So what do you think…will this new Tweet Button catch on? The masses will determine its fate soon enough.

11 Signs You Are An Old School Twitter User

Although I wasn’t at the infamous SXSW that saw the start of the whole mob, nor did I see Jack’s first tweet, I’ve been around long enough to feel like the old man in the Twitter neighborhood.  I know many of you feel the same way.  So here, submitted for your approval, is my list of how you know you’ve been around the digital neighborhood for a while.

You know you’re an old-school Twitter user if…

  1. You still type “” in your browser to get to the Twitter Search page
  2. You’ve felt ecstatic about Twitter being down less than half the day
  3. You had to explain what a “tweet” was…at least 3 times a day
  4. You remember when Kevin Rose had the most followers on Twitter, and you couldn’t believe that anybody could have over 30,000!
  5. You know that the first big follower race was not between Ashton Kutcher and CNN, but Kevin Rose and Barack Obama!
  6. You used to use the “TRACK” feature with Twitter via SMS to find out who mentioned you
  7. You remember the nightly news when they used an anchor’s title, not their Twitter name
  8. You referred to somebody in terms of Milliscobles
  9. You happen to know that the original Twitter bird was stock art (seen below), and Twitter paid less than the price of a pizza to acquire it
  10. When you heard the news that Oprah was going to talk about Twitter,you just knew that the service had jumped the shark
  11. You remember the day you heard the Twitter whale art was named “Failwhale

I could go on and on…but those are the first 10 that come to mind.  What would you add? Leave a comment, or ping me on Twitter with your sweetest old school Twitter memory.

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.

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Mediagazer Aggregates Today’s Must-See Media

Mediagazer media aggregator siteI’m been looking over a new media aggregation site called Mediagazer.  My initial thought was, “great…another aggregator that will simply clutter up a lot of content and put it in a needle-in-the-haystack format”, but those thoughts were dismissed as soon as I really started looking at it closely.

Mediagazer is a new effort from the uber-popular tech sharing community Techmeme, and is their first news vertical in almost four years. It bills itself as a site, “which will focus on the content production and distribution business, organizing topics as wide as journalism, blogging, video production, e-books, and digital distribution technologies”, and sure enough it does all of that.  There are a lot of good content assimilation sites, but I think Mediagazer will stand out as a leader if it can get enough good press early to build momentum.

Mediagazer allows you to share with Twitter or Facebook easilyI really like it’s easy-to-share buttons, with the ability to send information linked to either Mediagazer directly, or the original source of the story.  I think that is a brave and noble feature, most aggregators are trying their very best to drive as much traffic as possible directly to their own site (increase in traffic = increase in ad revenue), so the ability to link directly out is a fairly cool and risky idea. They do have sponsored news aggregation prominently displayed in the right column and halfway down the main page with no signs of traditional banner and display ads…yet. I also like the sharing simplicity, obviously aimed at social networks as the only two options are Twitter and Facebook.  Honestly, those are the only two places I ever share news anyway. Naturally, Mediagazer is also on Twitter, although thus far it appears to simply be a feed from their headlines as opposed to an interactive, engaging account.

I like the navigation and sharing potential from this site, so I’ll give it a try as a news source for a couple of weeks to see if it makes it into my regular lineup.  If you try it out, let me know what you think: is Mediagazer just another news aggregator, or a useful service for finding and sharing information?

Tweetdeck Update Brings Welcomed Improvements

Tweetdeck, the Adobe Air desktop app that I use for the majority of my online communication,published an update to version 0.33.00 today. They have included a lot of media previewing in the new release including media support for platforms like Flickr, Twitgoo and mobypicture.  My favorite new feature? Without a doubt a new way to delegate API calls.  Instead of being limited to 150/hour the new rate (thanks to OAuth authentication) is 350 calls per hour! In plain speak, this means that it is far more likely that you can make it through the day without seeing the dreaded “rate limit exceeded” error message.

Other nice tweaks include a fullscreen mode (PC only), the ability to record, share and watch videos clips integrated with YouTube and editable, real-time searches.

If you want a quick look at everything you are missing by not upgrading, the fine folks over at Tweetdeck were kind enough to make a 1:58 video detailing everything (embeded below).  Does anybody else find the name of the test account name they used in the video a little…odd?

If you are a Twitter user but haven’t jumped into the Tweetdeck arena, I urge you to try it out.  It’s free, runs on most platforms without issues, and makes sorting and organizing information pretty simple.

How Twitter Can Fix Direct Message Spam

Phishing spam on Twitter

Phishing spam on Twitter

Dear Twitter,

You have done an incredible job of responding to a massive influx of new users, especially over the last 8 months.  With growth reaching 1400% month over month, the need to react and support quickly has been critical, and for the most part I would say you have done so better than just about anybody else has that has seen such rapid growth on their platforms.   With the recent roll out of Twitter lists you have also added value to the community by providing a tool that people can use to pull some signal out of all of the noise.  Many are finding the lists as the place to discover and follow new people.  Thank you for all of your work.

A new phenomenon has bubbled up from the user community, and it’s something that I would like you to take quick and decisive action on.  Phishing scams have torn through Twitter on an almost daily basis for the last several weeks, with unsuspecting users clicking links and turning over their credentials.  The results have been painful to deal with…I’m receiving dozens, and sometimes hundreds,of direct messages from real people (not bots) every single day with messages like, “hey. do this iq quiz for me” and “i found y0u”. This is phishing that is perpetuating too rapidly and it’s starting to ruin the communication platform for me. Here is what needs to happen to fix this…

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My New Role In Social Media Marketing and Strategy

logo-v1Those of you that have been following my adventures for a while know that I put my heart, soul and mind into social media.  Since writing my own blogging platform a decade ago (the billion dollar idea that I never capitalized on…) to my almost-obsessive fascination with brand interaction on channels like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, I am constantly observing and strategizing ways to make the interaction and engagement between companies and customers better through social media. I have spent quite a bit of time over the last couple of years consulting businesses of all types and sizes regarding their engagement (or lack thereof) within these online communities.  From Fortune 100 companies that distribute hardware all around the world to non-profit agencies that are doing their best to make a difference in the world, I have worked with groups to lend insight, support, ideas and action to social media programs. Given all of that, I’m quite pleased to announce that I have taken a new role within the industry.

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New Twitter Phishing Scam

phishing-accountsAnother day, another phishing or malware scam on Twitter. It seems like these are happening entirely too often, and the reason is that people continue to ignore common sense. Very, very rarely will a site hijack an account of some type without getting input from the account holder. The scam du jour is a Twitter hijack attempt that asks for a username and password, and once received will not only DM your followers with a message, but will also post it publicly on your account. The message will appear as one of the following, or a close variant:

  • hah, i think i seen u on here
  • this you?
  • lol this vid is funny.
  • haha check out this vid

DO NOT FOLLOW THESE LINKS AND GIVE YOUR LOGIN INFORMATION!!! This page will take your Twitter login credentials and hijack your account.  As of right now it appears to only try to propagate itself by getting others to log in, but it could use your account for other reasons.  If you did receive this and you did “log in”, you must CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD IMMEDIATELY!!!

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