Adapting to Changes to Twitter @ Replies.
A tweet from Jeremiah Owyang this morning reminded me to jot down my thoughts about changes to Twitter’s @ reply rules and how users have adapted to it.
For those who aren’t familiar, Twitter users previously had the option of choosing to see all @ replies (including replies to those they don’t follow) from the settings menu if they wished. A few months ago, that option was removed. Twitter users can now only see @ replies if they follow both the sender and the receiver of that particular tweet. This change created quite an uproar among Twitter users. (Search #fixreplies on Twitter to see the reactions.) One of the biggest complaint is that seeing all @ replies was facilitating the discovery of new users and for observing conversations of interest. I personally agree with this.
Now that not all my followers will see my @ reply tweets, I feel more relaxed about sending more “acknowledgment” tweets to people, such as those done after an event or as a thank-you. I’m also more inclined to carry on social conversation with friends in a few tweets, which I’m sure we all enjoy doing from time to time.
As soon as the @ reply rule changed, some Twitter users began looking for a work-around. The trick is to not put the @ user name at the very beginning of the tweet. There are 2 ways to accomplish this:
1) Insert a character such as a period (.), a dash (-) or an exclamation point (!) before the reply message. I don’t like using ! because it’s commonly used for SMS commands on many location based social networks. This hack also causes you to lose a character space in the 140 limit.
2) Move the @ user name to a different part of the tweet sentence. This is my personal preference. It doesn’t cost you a character, and also makes the sentence flow better, IMHO.
The New Issue:
Twitter took away from its users the option of selectively viewing @ replies. Now users are adapting their tweeting habits around it by using hacks. Unfortunately, this creates a new problem for those who previously did not wish to see all @ replies. They are the ones who no longer have a choice, as the hack essentially forces @ reply tweets into their stream.
The (Interim) Solution:
Use the tools, but mind your manners. It’s up to each Twitter user to use the @ reply hacks selectively. I think Shel Israel handles this well. Some habitual “broadcasters” were using the hack well before the @ reply rule change, and I’ve had to unfollow them no matter how great they are. Others are now putting @ user names at the end of all tweets, even when it’s just casual/social chatter between friends. I suspect it’s due to the convenience of moving the cursor in front of @ user names when replying via a mobile device.
It all boils down to respecting your followers’ time and space, and the same ettiquette applies on all other social networks. (I’m looking at you, Facebook pages!)
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Tags: netiquette, Twitter