twitter for journalists

Mentions, replies, and DMs

When a tweet includes another person's username prefaced with the "@" symbol, that person will be notified that they've been mentioned. Unlike on Facebook, you do not need to have a follower/followee relatonship to mention another user - it's all public. However, it's important to understand that mentions take two forms.

1) When a tweet starts with the @ symbol, it's called a reply, and will not show up in the streams of other people following you. However, if someone looks directly at your feed, they will see the replies you've made to others. In other words, this form of reply is semi-private. Twitter works this way to increase the quality of everyone's streams - if it didn't, your stream would be filled with fragments of one-side conversations people are having with each other.

Example of an "at" reply, which is a semi-private message. The tweet starts with @ symbol, effectively hiding it from other followers unless they view the sender's stream directly.

2) When an @username appears anywhere else in the body of a tweet, the recipient is still notified, but the tweet will show up in the streams of other people who follow you. This is a way to refer/link to another user on the service, as opposed to communicating with them semi-privately.

In other words, if you want to mention someone and have your followers see the tweet, do not start the tweet with an "@" symbol!

Example of a "mention" - the tweet doesn't start with an "@" symbol. In this case, PBS will still receive notification that they've been referred to, and other users can easily click to view PBS's Twitter stream.

If you want to ensure your tweet is public but still mention a person at the start of the sentence, you can work around this by prefacing the "@" with a ".", e.g.

.@kdmcinfo Thanks, I'm loving this tutorial!

An old-style retweet (see next section) is a type of "mention." Three users are mentioned in this tweet, and all will have received some kind of notification, which may draw them into the conversation.

Direct Messages

As you would expect, Twitter also provides a way to send a fully private message to another user. However, you cannot send a direct message to a user who does not follow you. This feature prevents Twitter from becoming a massive spam bucket. To send a direct message to user @kdmcinfo, use this syntax:

direct message

To make it even easier, most Twitter clients provide special buttons or links for sending direct messages, so you won't have to remember to start the tweet with "d".

Since direct messages are generally important enough to warrant your immediate attention, you can visit your settings on and configure the service to push DMs directly to your phone as SMS messages.