You’re doing Twitter @replies wrong.

OK so another bug bear of mine…people running social for brands who don’t quite understand the intricacies of Twitter @replies. Of course, this is understandable for newer people or those who don’t care (the ‘everyday’ Twitter user) but if you’re a brand, you should understand the platforms you’re using.

@Replies are harder than you think…this is primarily because they’re built for (surprise, surprise) conversations. They’re different to just mentioning them. To quote the Twitter help docs:

People will only see others’ @replies in their home timeline if they are following both the sender and recipient of the @reply.

This is actually a really useful feature. It means people see conversations where they follow both parties — these might be of interest to them after all, but not ones between parties where they only follow one person. It’s a good way that Twitter reduces some of the ‘noise’ you would otherwise have to scroll through.

But you need to understand this when you’re using it as a brand. Enter our case study, @DIBPAustralia. I’ve used them just because they’re a verified account (which has a few other options available as well), but also because they were what prompted me to write this.

Disclaimer: this isn’t unique or confined to this account, in fact it’s done poorly by brands from every industry, including the media.

In customer service


The Tweets above are replying to users who have Tweeted the department. But everyone sees them, because they have put ‘Hi’ and then the person’s username. Had they gone with

@LeeBrom hi there, visit to speak with us

The only person to see it (unless they were following both DIBP and @LeeBrom) would be Lee themself, which is obviously the intent. Instead, other users who follow DIBP see it, like me. And it’s totally irrelevant to me…

Additionally, doing this can actually draw attention to someone else’s Tweet (think if it was a complaint, or provided potentially private information) so should be done with extreme care.

If you’re using social media for customer service, reply with the username at the start of the Tweet. That way it only goes to them, or people who follow both them and you.

In the media / quotes


Here’s the oppostite situation. They’re not replying to anyone, but they’re mentioning the minister who they’re quoting.

BUT most people won’t see that tweet. Only if they are following Scott Morrison and DIBP. Which could have been the intent – perhaps they wanted to limit the audience – but I suspect not.

This is why you often see people (in both replies and when tweeting generally) add a full stop beforehand. This means that it is sent out as if it’s a regular Tweet, so everyone who follows the person Tweeting will see the content. So in the case above, they should have written

.@ScottMorrisonMP addresses....

or alternatively mentioned him later in the tweet, like

The future of Australia's borders - address by @ScottMorrisonMP to the Biometrics APAC conference

Add a full stop before someone’s username when you’re mentioning them at the start of a Tweet if you want it to go to all of your followers. Otherwise it will only be seen by a small minority.

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