Twitter 101: Reply vs Mention

Is that a reply or a mention? Either way, I hope I don't step in it!

I really enjoy the Twitter. It’s the special place reserved for most of my … ahem … wit. (If I do say so myself.) If you don’t follow me on Twitter I dare say you are missing a lot of what I have to offer.

I think it’s an art form. The 140-character limit is perfect for bite-sized chunks of humor that wouldn’t justify a full blog post. I think the micro-blogging idea was rather brilliant.

True, there is a lot of bullshit on Twitter. Like location tweets. “I’m at Starbucks.” Well now, goodie for you. I guess we know you are a venti-sized ass. “I’m at the stadium watching XYZ sporting event.” And you’re tweeting about it while you’re still there? I call that a lose-lose. “I’m at Ye Olde Fancy Restaurant.” What? You didn’t include what you’re eating? Loser. “I’m at Walgreens.” Holy shit! Must be time for suppositories?

Twitter. The new way for those who think they are the super-trendy to be seen. At least virtually.

That’s one kind of tweet. Actually, let’s break them down.

  • Status tweets: What I’m doing right now. I guess this would include the sub-genre of location tweets. Going to a meeting, going online, going offline, away from keyboard, just woke up, going to bed, etc.
  • Informational: Hey, check out this link to some content, be it an article, image, video, etc. I want to turn you on to it, yo.
  • Social Networking: I’m mentioning someone else to help promote them. I hope they’ll do the same for me.
  • Spam: Buy my shit.
  • News: You can actually get a lot of breaking news using Twitter. Go to and set up an RSS feed for your city or the topic you’re interested in.
  • Emotion tweets: I’m feeling XYZ. Ex: I’m feeling hurt, angry and pissed off. I just broke my favorite shot glass.
  • Self-promotion: Hey, look! I just wrote a blog post.
  • ReTweet: Someone just said something interesting in a way I never could.
  • Celebrity bait: Trying to get a celebrity to respond to your tweet in the hopes that your tweet be will seen by millions of celebrity followers. I call this Probsting, Eberting or Spinering. (Your mileage may vary.)
  • Quip tweets: Look at how wise and/or philosophical and/or how witty I can be.
  • Question tweets: A tweet in the form of a question, usually a subtle method of demonstrating how awesome, exclusive, or “in the know” you are. Ex: Just arrived in at the White House. Can anyone recommend a good place for dinner?
  • What I’m Drinking: Self-explanatory. May include a picture of the bottle.
  • This Is My Foot: A tweet containing a link to a photograph of the tweeter’s foot, usually at the end of a lounge chair with a panoramic beach scene behind it.
  • Sex toy tweets: A link to a product page with a testimonial how you just used the thing and it rocked your world.

Did I forget any? Let me know!

One of the best things about Twitter, though, is promoting each other. Socially networking and making new friends and that sort of thing. The way we do this is by linking to each other. In Twitter vernacular the methods for doing this are known as “replies” and “mentions.”  You might think these are the same. They’re not. Unfortunately Twitter built in a sneaky little land mine here, and if you’re not careful, you might not be doing what you’re thinking you’re doing.

That’s why I’m here to help. I only recently learned of this myself.


You’re on and you see a tweet you like. You click the “reply” link. A window opens and it already has the usernames of the person(s) involved. You start typing at the end of the username list.

Here’s an example of a reply:!/Fnkybee/status/77040784347627521


This is very similar to a reply. The only difference is that the username(s) are located anywhere besides the beginning of the tweet. This can be at the end of the tweet or anywhere else in between. Just not the beginning.

Here’s an example of a mention:

Big Deal – What’s the Difference?

Simply put, the difference is one of visibility. Replies are less visible than Mentions.

Why is this? I don’t know. Twitter likes to be sneaky?

This is the way it works. Replies are only visible to the tweeter, the username at the beginning of the tweet, and other accounts that follow both accounts involved. Using the Reply example above, the tweet is only visible to: shoutabyss, Fnkybee, and accounts that follow both shoutabyss and Fnkybee. That’s it.

Mentions are much more visible. They are seen by all of your followers. (In addition to the mentionee, of course.)

Note: The scope of “visibility” pertains only to timelines. Replies are still visible to those who directly visit a Twitter account’s page. That isn’t how most people read and interact with Twitter, though.

Celebrity Bait

If you bait the hook, perhaps you’ll get a nibble. Every once in a while a celebrity will choose to respond to one of us common folk. It even happened to me with Brent Spiner, the star of the web series Fresh Hell. Oh yeah, he also played Lt. Cmd. Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Fish on!

The big question, of course, is how the celebrity chooses to respond. In my case, it was a direct message. When I first got the notification of the tweet on my iPod I went a little nuts. I did a little crazy dance all over the house. My wife just rolled her eyes.

But then, when I could find no trace of the tweet in my timeline, at first I assumed Brent had changed his mind and deleted the tweet. He hadn’t. It turned out he sent me a direct message, which meant it was only visible to two people.

Logical. What else would I expect? Why should I ever get a bone? (Guru powers activate!)

If you can get the celebrity to reply then you’re a little better off. But only if they mention you will you enjoy the thrill ride that is being visible to all of their followers.


Why did Twitter make it this way? Why do so few people know about this? I don’t know. Perhaps there are times you want to keep things more cozy, but I really don’t see the point. If you wanted that, a direct message would suffice.

Congratulations. If you read this far you have successfully graduated Twitter 101. If you mention me on Twitter I’ll send you a virtual diploma suitable for virtual framing. If you merely reply to me then I’ll release the hounds.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed (if you are uncommonly observant) that I changed from replies to mentions a few weeks back. This is just one of my many gifts to you. I hope y’all appreciate it.

If you ever want to do me a favor, give me a mention, will ya? Replies are for the Twitter birds.

One response

  1. You lead; I follow. The only name I mention more than my own is yours.


Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

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