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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Social Media Strategy: The Three Types of Personal Tweets

    Posted by Isaiah Adams

    Know Replies, Direct Messages and Mentions

    There are now nearly 142 million Twitter accounts in the US alone. If you're not using Twitter for business, it's time to get started. One of the most important methods for your company's success on social media is engagement, which is a measure of how often your followers take the time to engage your organization in discussion.

    When it comes to mentioning specific users in your Tweets, it's essential to have a good idea of the ground rules to make sure each Tweet gets exactly as much exposure as you want. There are several ways to use Twitter for dialogue. Let's get started by defining each type of Tweet and who can see them:


    A mention means that the person's Twitter handle will appear at some point in the Tweet other than the beginning. If I were to say, “hey @TwitterHandle, great blog content!” that would be a mention. If the Tweet said “@TwitterHandle, love your blog,” that would be a reply. Mentions are visible in the feeds of all of your Followers.


    Replies blend personal communications with ultimately public visibility. Here's an example of Twitter dialogue that takes place within the reply function:

    “@TwitterHandle, know a good food place near DC?” If you're only trying to ask a single user a query, the reply function is ideal. While the communication is completely public, it doesn't automatically populate the fields of all followers. Replies are only visible in a feed if someone is following both you and the person you're responding to.

    Direct Messages

    Direct messages are the only genuinely form of private contact on Twitter. Direct messages are fed directly into the inbox of one person. No one aside from the individual you're messaging is privy to this information.

    Now that we'd established the three types of Tweets for dialogue and who can see them, let's establish a list of when it's appropriate to use Twitter for dialogue, and which type of function you should be using:

    1. Are You Relaying Personal Contact Information?

    Even with replies, any person looking at your Twitter feed can see what you've written. If you're relaying information that you don't want shared, direct messages are the ideal format for your Twitter dialogue. Direct messages are the perfect time and place for taking customer service resolution with your customers off the total visibility of your Twitter feed.

    2. Are You Giving a Shout-Out?

    If you're trying to draw attention to an individual on Twitter, mentions offer the most mileage for your Tweets. If you're commending someone for exemplary blog content or discussing current events with the use of hashtags, mentions might be the ideal method of contact. If you're willing to let the dialogue into the feeds of all your followers and happy to see other people joining the conversation, use Mentions.

    3. Are You Responding to a Question?

    Replies are the most common method for one-on-one dialogue on Twitter. If you're responding to someone's questions or trying to initiate a personal conversation, a reply is likely going to be your best bet. Unless you are trying to protect some information, replies generally trump direct messages for one-on-one conversations on Twitter.

    4. Are You Mentioning Multiple Accounts?

    When it comes to mentioning multiple Twitter accounts in a single Tweet, things can get a little sticky. For follow Friday, or asking a large group of people questions, Twitter users almost always include text before starting to mention specific handles in order to give the Tweet the most visibility. If your reply to a single party involves other people, a combination of replies and mentions would be optimal. For example, answering someone's question with mentions might look like this “Hey @TwitterHandle, I hear @TwitterUser just addressed your question yesterday on their blog. Good luck!” In this instance, while the Tweet is technically a reply, the person being mentioned will also be notified so they can join the dialogue.

     5. Are You Offering Customer Service?

    While it may be tempting to immediately respond to customer complaints via direct messages in order to be direct about reaching resolution, it never hurts to just let anyone watching the dialogue know that you're serious about client satisfaction. Saying “Hey @TwitterHandle, sorry you thought our product was too sweet! I'll send you a direct message so we can discuss the issue!” will populate the feeds of all your followers, letting them know you take feedback seriously. While sending both a mention and a direct message takes a few extra seconds, it's a relatively easy way to let all your followers know you are serious and available for contact on social media.

    From hashtags to handles, Twitter's original nickname as a “micro-blogging network” doesn't truly encompass just how social the network can truly be. Whether you're trying to give a promoter a shout-out with a retweet or mention or providing resolution to a customer's query, it's essential to learn the ins and outs of each type of Tweet and when they should be used.

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    Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net/phanlop88

    Topics: Social Media