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.


The Problem:

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.

The Upside:

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.

The Hack:

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’sĀ  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!)


10 Responses to “Adapting to Changes to Twitter @ Replies.”

  1. I have DEFINITELY noticed that some folks abuse this little work-around. I use it sparingly — usually only when there is a nugget of information I’m sharing with a specific person that also may be of interest to some of my other “tweeps.” I definitely agree with your assessment that the manner in which/frequency with which one chooses to use this “hack” is definitely indicative of that person’s level of respect for those who are following them.

    Also, the nicest thing about the new policy on “@” replies is that, as you said, it makes me FAR less hesitant to drop a quick tweet of thanks or to share back-and-forth tweets with a friend, as I know I’m not clogging up someone’s stream unless s/he is following both me and the person w/whom I’m tweeting. I often sent DMs rather than tweets under the old policy, and it’s nice to not have to do that.

  2. 2 Kim N

    I wasn’t even aware of this change! I am surprised Brett didn’t mention it to me. Thanks for the tip.

    …oh, wait. Back to the og. story. šŸ˜‰ Ya, I knew this – a lot of my real friends who jumped on Twitter, didn’t. So me being the dumb-dumb is the way to do it šŸ™‚

    Nice post, btw. I’ll link all my friends here!

  4. I don’t know about this. I’m still seeing replies involving people who neither follow me nor which I follow. And they start with “@username.”

  5. 5 grandweezy

    wow… twitter politics!

  6. As I see the issue, the @reply is a reply to a tweet directed to a particular sender. So, the only person who matters that see the reply is the original sender. Twitter has modified the procedure so that only those who are following each other see the @reply, rather than both groups. Now, if you want both groups to see the reply, you need to choose a work around. Used in this way, I don’t see problem. This way, I don’t have essentially “private” conversations in my timeline. However, isn’t this also why there is the DM option?

  7. OK, I figured it out. On Twitter’s website the new behavior is seen. But evidently Twitter’s API is not “observing” the rule, because in HootSuite I still see the replies from people I follow to people I don’t follow.

    One of the main reasons I stop following people is their excessive replies in which I have no interest. I hope Twitter fixes their API soon.

  8. Lane: Consider switching to TweetDeck, which has been on board with the rule from the start! I never see “@” replies to people I don’t follow, unless the tweet has a “.@” at the beginning. Also exempt from the rule, no matter where you get your tweets: Tweets in which the “@soandso” is buried within the text instead of being placed at the beginning.

  9. Thanks, Lindsay! Actually, I prefer Seesmic Desktop, another AIR app. But for some reason AIR stopped working for me in Ubuntu Linux. AIR seems to install OK, but any attempt to install an app bombs.

    I suspect I would unfollow in a heartbeat anyone who started posting .@’s that made no sense to me.

  1. 1 SchooBlog! » Best Practices

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