#SMsceptic: A Quick, Simple Guide to Twitter @Mentions

At sign imageAs a heavy Twitter user, I often come across people improperly using @mentions. If you’re a long-term reader, you might’ve seen me briefly cover this before (see 1-3 in the list).

Often, those guilty are brand new users. That’s ok. I made some horrendous mistakes when I first started using Twitter. I’m sure most of us did. Twitter takes some getting used to.

Sometimes, however, they are people who have “social media” in their job title. I’ve seen social media professionals – including a variety of consultants, trainers, executives and in-house staff – who can’t @mention properly. In my opinion, this is not cool. While it could be argued that someone doesn’t necessarily need to know how to use a platform inside-out to be able to consult strategy on it, a) it’s not exactly a hard concept to grasp properly, and b) they might be giving people incorrect advice, particularly if they’re a trainer.

Besides, if someone gave you all the details on how to build your house, but forgot to include any doors when they built their own, what would you think? It hardly inspires confidence.

Tempted to scream, tweet various swear words, or tweet something like “if I had a pound everytime someone did this…” each time I witness such errors, I thought instead that I’d vent my frustrations in a more practical and helpful way…

So here it is: a really quick and simple guide on how to use @mentions on Twitter.

@mentions at the start of a tweet:

@joebloggs has a new website. Check it out: [link]

The above is intended as an announcement. However, not all of your followers will see it.

An @mention at the start of a tweet will only be seen by you, the person you’re tweeting and anyone who follows both of you. The only other exception is if someone happens to check your profile manually, but in my experience, people may only do this when they first come across a profile (e.g. they’re wondering whether or not to follow you) or if they just want to check something (e.g. to look up your profile bio or URL).

So if you want to make an announcement, make sure the @mention isn’t at the start of the tweet! Either re-word it so that the @mention appears later on, or put a full-stop before the @ sign, e.g. [email protected] has a…”

@mentions mid-tweet:

Hey @joebloggs, what’s your email address? Thanks!

An @mention mid-tweet will be seen by everyone in your timeline. This is fine as an announcement, but if it’s only intended as a brief, bland, personal message that really isn’t intended for anyone else, then you risk irritating your followers and clogging up their feed. Especially if you’re @mentioning a lot of people with the same message.

So if you’re posting a personal tweet, intended only for the individual, then be considerate to your followers: consider keeping the @mention at the start of the tweet.

How they should be:

Sticking with the above two examples, you should do something like this instead:

[email protected] has a new website. Check it out: [link] or
My good friend @joebloggs has a new website. Check it out: [link]

@joebloggs Hey, what’s your email address? Thanks!

That way, your intended announcement is actually an annoucement, and your personal tweet is more personal. Easy, no?

I also recommend Jessica Hische’s more amusing guide on how to use Twitter, which also covers @mentions (I swear I haven’t simply ripped it off!) as well as things like #hashtags and retweets.

It may seem like I’m making a big fuss, but if you’re a business that’s trying to make a big effort on Twitter, you don’t want your announcements to go unseen and/or risk bothering your followers with tweets that don’t concern them!

And… breathe.

[@ sign image credit: Steve Snodgrass]


  • David Bartlett @CardiffInternet

    June 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm Reply

    Am certainly guilty of this myself! Thanks for correcting my knowledge and see you at the next Cardiff Internet Marketing event on Monday.

    • Steve

      June 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm Reply

      Hehe, sorry David! As I say in the post though, I wouldn’t want someone to not realise that they may be annoying their followers, who might then stop following you. 🙂

      See you on Monday!

  • Hannah

    May 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm Reply

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for this great post. I can see it was written in June 2012 so my question is whether the impact of the positioning of @mentions is still true today?


    • Steve

      May 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm Reply

      Hi Hannah, thanks for commenting. It is still the case today: if an @mention is at the start of a tweet, it still only shows it to the person receiving it (and people who follow both the sender and receiver), so a full-stop or words at the start of a tweet would still be required in order to make it an ‘announcement’ tweet. As far as I’m aware, Twitter haven’t changed anything. It’s a good point to raise though, given that this post is nearly a year old now. Anyway, I hope that helps! 🙂

  • Andy Crisp

    August 8, 2013 at 11:04 am Reply

    This was a really useful read – thanks Steve. Hoping it helps me to think before I @ reply in future.

    • Steve

      August 8, 2013 at 11:08 am Reply

      Hehe, no problem Andy… 😉

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