Day 4 of #LivUni10DoT: Sending @Replies, Mentions and Direct Messaging

Twitter logoSending @Replies, Mentions and Direct Messaging

You’ve sent some tweets, followed people and hopefully gained some followers of your own. Some people prefer to listen more than they tweet, which is fine – the only thing to consider is, the more you say about your interests and interact with others, the more people will know what kind of information might be useful to you, and direct relevant things your way. It’s a way of fine-tuning your twitter feed as well as providing useful information to others.

So today we’re looking at sending some tweets, and when we tweet other people there are a couple of options – an @Mention is simply mentioning another user in your tweet. An @Reply is pretty much the same thing – essentially you’re just replying to someone’s tweet. Finally an @Message (Direct Message or DM) is a private message that only that user can see.


Sometimes you might want to address a tweet to someone – it will be visible to other followers, but you want to catch a particular person’s attention with it. This might be because:

  • you are replying to or responding to one of their tweets;
  • asking them a question;
  • you think they might be particularly interested in the information passed on in your tweet and want to make sure it catches their eye;
  • or because you mention them in the tweet and want them to know, for example, if you retweet one of their tweets or are talking about their work;
  • It may also be that you don’t follow that person, or they don’t follow you, but you still want to catch their attention with one particular tweet: they will still see it if you include their @username. For example:

An example:

To call someone’s attention to a tweet with an @mention, you use their username or ‘handle’ preceded by a @ sign. For example, to let me know you’ve mentioned me, you would include ‘@reedyreedles’ in the tweet. If you click the ‘reply’ option which appears in grey in each tweet, Twitter will automatically insert the person’s @name into your tweet. This is another reason to keep your Twitter name reasonably short – it uses up some of the 140 characters! This is a feature that originated with the users of Twitter, which was then subsequently designed into the platform. It’s what has turned Twitter from a broadcast medium of updates into a conversation, and that’s Twitter’s real strength.

Note – as the @ sign is reserved for marking people’s handles, you can’t use it as an abbreviation for ‘at’, for example, ‘let’s meet @6pm @cafe’ – it will treat these as an @message, and it’s likely that someone, somewhere, will have chosen @6pm or @cafe as a handle!

A small but important point is where you place the @username. If you are responding to a tweet, using the ‘reply’ button, then Twitter will automatically begin your tweet response with the @username, and you can then type the rest of your message. However, if the very first thing in the tweet is someone’s @username, then only that person and those who follow both of you will be able to see it. If you want the tweet to have a wider audience, then you either need to put a full stop in front of the @ sign like this: .@reedyreedles OR you could include the @username later on in your tweet as part of the sentence, for example: ‘reading @reedyreedles blog post about Twitter – some useful tips!’

Why might you want a wider audience to see conversations between you and another user?

What’s in it for them:

  • It’s polite to acknowledge them if you’re retweeting something they’ve said, or to let them know if you’re commenting on their work;
  • You are drawing attention to them and their work to people who don’t already follow them – they get publicity and new followers.

What’s in it for you:

  • You gain a reputation as a polite, helpful, knowledgeable and well-connected professional
  • You may also gain new followers or make new connections

What’s in it for your followers:

  • They get to know about someone’s work which they may have been unaware of, and a new person to follow
  • They are offered a chance to contribute to the discussion too, and thereby gain new contacts and audiences
  • If replying to someone who’s passed on useful information to you specifically, it’s helpful to copy in their reply to your tweet response, in case your followers are also interested in the information.

To see @Mentions directed at you, click on the tab marked Notifications with the bell icon, at the top of the screen (this used to be called @Connect, but Twitter changed it recently).

@Messages / Direct Messages

Of course, there may be times when you don’t want a wide audience to see the interaction, if it’s not going to be understandable out of context, or of interest to them but just cluttering up their feed, and in these cases, you can just start the message with ‘@’. Remember that Twitter is a very public medium, and whether you @message someone or not, your tweets will be visible to anyone who views your profile. If you really want to send a message to just one person, but don’t want it publicly visible to anyone else, Twitter allows you to send them a DM (or Direct Message) IF that person follows you (if you want to practice sending a Direct Message, feel free to contact me! If I’ve accidentally omitted to follow you, let me know!).

To see your direct messages, click on the Messages tab.

@messages or Direct Messages

You might see somebody else’s tweet and want to send that as a direct message to someone else. To do this simple click on the tweet and select the symbol with three dots. From the drop down that appears, click ‘Share via Direct Message’. This will take you through the process of sharing the tweet in a Direct Message.

Finally, Twitter has set a limit on the amount of Direct Messages you can send in a day. Don’t worry though, Twitter have been pretty generous, setting the limit at a 1,000 direct messages per day.


Depending on your settings, you can also receive an email when someone either mentions or direct messages you (actually there are a number of options related to receiving notifications). To set your account to email you when someone mentions you, click your profile picture on the menu banner at the top of the page and from the menu select ‘settings’. From the menu that appears, click Email notifications (from the left) and set the options to reflect your email preferences.


So – send some @messages to people you follow- ask them a question, draw their attention to something, comment on something they’ve tweeted! Reply to anyone who messages you, to be polite, if they appear genuine and professional. And remember to send me (@reedyreedles) an @message to tell me how it’s going!

Extension Activity

As an extension activity, and if you haven’t already, you could try downloading the twitter app for your smartphone or tablet. Things look slightly different but essentially the key features are the same. The beauty about Twitter is that you can gain access to tweets that people send you instantly from your phone, wherever you might be. Now this doesn’t mean you’ll turn into a Walker from the Walking Dead, zombified by the screen, but it can help keep you in the loop, especially when tweeting from a departmental account.

Peter (@reedyreedles)

Further reading:


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