A Twitter Tip that Changes Everything

Posted on 26. Apr, 2010 by in Web

By: Hillel Fuld

One of the big questions on the minds of new Twitter users is “How do I find people to follow?” The question is pretty simple and straight forward, the answer a little less. In reality, there are many resources available to find interesting people to follow on Twitter. These include online directories, such as Wefollow, Twitter lists, people your friends follow, and many more.

There used to be one more way to find interesting people to follow, but Twitter changed one little rule in the way people communicate on Twitter, and that changed everything. Most people would agree that if someone you like or find interesting, regularly communicates with someone, chances are you would find that someone to be interesting as well. Of course, this is not always the case, and if you share one interest with a person, that does not necessarily mean you will share all of their interests. So, to give an example, I am a huge tech fan, and most of my tweets are about technology, however, I regularly communicate with people about other topics including TV, movies, politics, and others. So, you might very well be interesting in my tech tweets, but not find those people I talk to about politics to be even remotely interesting to you.

Putting that aside for a second, you used to be able to see who your Twitter friends are talking to, and follow those people easily. This provided yet another easy and efficient way of finding people who interest you. Twitter, approximately 6 months ago, changed that. They claimed it was causing too much noise in the online conversation when you would see replies to people who you do not follow. They explained that if you could not follow both sides of the conversation, following one side was pointless and disruptive.  They do have a point, but at the end of the day, if a conversation does not interest me, I can ignore it.

No Way To Know Context Unless You Follow Both Sides

According to the new Twitter rule, if someone you are following replies to someone else, you will not see that reply unless you follow both sides. This indeed cleans up the Twitter stream a lot, but it also eliminates that useful ability to find new people. This also creates a certain limitation in the way people tweet, but based on my experience, most people do not even know about this.

If you start a tweet with @, only the people that follow you and the person you just mentioned will see that tweet. Let me give you a concrete example of something I have seen happen very often. Let’s say you want to recommend someone for a Follow Friday. If you do not know what that is, read this, but basically, every Friday, people recommend other people who they enjoy following. Now, if you are recommending someone, I think it is safe to assume that the most important people to see that tweet, are the people who are not yet following that person. However, if you start the tweet with “@Hilzfuld is a great follow because…”, only the people already following me will see that tweet. Now, that is kinda pointless, don’t ya think?

A Pointless FollowFriday

There are many solutions to this limitation. Some people start their tweets with a period before the @. This makes the tweet into a regular update as opposed to a reply to that person. I personally think that might confuse people who do not understand why there is a period in the beginning of your tweets. The best solution is to simply rephrase the tweet so it does not start with a @. For example, instead of writing “@Hilzfuld is a great follow because…”, you can write “You should follow @Hilzfuld because…” The message is the same but the latter will be seen by all your followers, and the former, only by people already following me. Check out the example in the below screen shot.

I have noticed that even major influencers on Twitter, some with over 100,000 followers are unaware of this limitation and often reference someone in a tweet that starts with a @. They do not understand that this tweet will not be seen by most of their followers.

In conclusion, I will just say that Twitter as a service is constantly evolving, and if you do not pay close attention, you might end up missing the boat, which will cost you with some serious mistakes in the way you use Twitter. Yes, I have heard people say there is no right and wrong way to tweet, and that might be true, but that does not change the fact that certain Twitter practices are just more effective and efficient than others.

Did you know about this Twitter limitation or is this news to you? Do you know of any other good tips most people missed? Please let us know in the comments.

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38 Responses to “A Twitter Tip that Changes Everything”

  1. Miriam

    26. Apr, 2010

    Very, very helpful – and something I was completely unaware of. Thanks so much Hillel!

  2. hilzfuld

    26. Apr, 2010

    Thanks Miriam, hope it was clear, I feel like it got a little confusing at times… :)

  3. yitz..

    26. Apr, 2010

    i never noticed the difference.. thanks for pointing it out :)

    (i wish twitter would’ve done the opposite .. provided a facebook wall-to-wall like feature [on steroids], where you can click on a link and see just the streams of the correspondents in a particular conversation)

  4. Giovanna

    26. Apr, 2010

    ;) Thankyou for this info. I figured out the writing (follow because) etc.. Before the @ name but I didn’t know about the dot .
    ;)

  5. hilzfuld

    26. Apr, 2010

    Yup, that is one of the biggest complaints about Twitter, no threaded conversations. Good point Yitz.

  6. Shimon

    26. Apr, 2010

    That is why it is also useful to check out your friends profile pages every once in a while – to see who they communicate with.

  7. Iconic88

    26. Apr, 2010

    Great point made brother.

    Let people know that if you throw in a “.” or “!” or “>” before the @username everyone will be able to see the tweet.

    There are ways around it.

    As for #FollowFriday, gotta agree with you there. I took a leaf out of Chris Brogan’s book and tweet out the “Follow @username + explanation + their URL”.

    This helps people find out more about that person.

    Great post! Thank you.

  8. Rolf Simons

    26. Apr, 2010

    Thanks 4 your tips. They are very helpfull.

  9. Nishant Singh

    26. Apr, 2010

    Ah! Didn’t know about this.. Thakns :D

  10. Anne (IsraeliMom)

    26. Apr, 2010

    I didn’t know this was the case. I guess they also did this as a counter measure against people who were badgering big users just to get the big users’ followers to see their name in the reply.

  11. birkenbihl

    26. Apr, 2010

    I have another way (among several) how to find great tweet-makers: I read the left column (default) you get when searching RETWEET. If i like a tweet (these are total strangers!) i go to the profil and read mor tweets of theat person. if i like them i start RT-ing them AND i follow. then i look who is following that person, because birds of a feather… this way i have found some terrific people fo follow.
    :-))
    vfb

  12. brett

    26. Apr, 2010

    An important nuance! I had no idea- thanks!

  13. avilist1@gmail.com

    26. Apr, 2010

    Twitter should give people the option in the way they want to communicate. Due this change it has been harder to develop
    friendships or to make occasional comments and to get a feedback right-away. for example are you not interested in comments that people who you follow to chose, but you aren’t following for one reason or another.

  14. nielsveenstar

    27. Apr, 2010

    Yes, completely new for me! Thx for this, will keep it in mind.

  15. Peggy Butler

    27. Apr, 2010

    I knew about this but I’m glad you wrote about it because a lot of people apparently do not understand this rule…even big Twitter users, as you pointed out.

    Great post…I’ll RT it now…

  16. LaSal

    27. Apr, 2010

    Very interesting and very helpful… apparently it’s easy to become pointless with the new changes.

    Also, I used to just click on the ‘public timeline’ tab and read updates from all around the globe, It was fascinating, all sorts of different languages, and I always found interesting people to follow. I can no longer find a ‘public timelin’e where everyone’s tweets are listed. Does anyone know if there still a way to see this?
    Thanks!

  17. Laura Roeder

    27. Apr, 2010

    Not a new rule, but definitely one of the most confusing. Good explanation here.

  18. Jay

    27. Apr, 2010

    Thanks for sharing. This is interesting and new to me.

  19. Joe

    27. Apr, 2010

    I found this out very much by accident and was pretty shocked. I think about all the conversations I’ve had with people (that were pretty damn good if I do say so my damn self) that I assumed all my friends were observing.

  20. bethofspring

    27. Apr, 2010

    Thanks.
    This nana’s been tweeting for quite a while, but never RTFM.
    Your columns really help, though I wish I could ask specific questions.

  21. Jessi

    27. Apr, 2010

    I didn’t know about this in it’s entirety………..I did realize that I wasn’t seeing some @ replies but I assumed it was because the party I wasn’t following had a locked account. This certainly does explain a lot though, thank you!!! =)

  22. Chuck Brown

    27. Apr, 2010

    Great tip and very useful. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Dragon Blogger

    27. Apr, 2010

    Wait, I often tweet out “@user1 @user2 @user3 thank you for joining the twitter poem” will all 3 of these people see my message and just not the rest of my followers, or only the 1st user?

  24. Shane

    27. Apr, 2010

    Thanks for that info.

    As a new Twitter user, however, I must admit that the explanation was a little confusing. But, I think I got it.

    Basically, if I were following you, I would only see those @ tweets if I looked at your Profile page as I wouldn’t receive those in my timeline. They’re considered replies rather than updates.

    A tweet, however, with the @ falling later in the tweet would allow me and all your followers to see it as it’s considered an update rather than a reply.

    That the gist? lol.

    Thanks for the tip :)

  25. Donna Gilliland

    27. Apr, 2010

    Great article. I did know about the reason you should start your tweet with something before you reference the persons address. Many are unaware.

    Again, great article.

  26. Elina

    28. Apr, 2010

    Thanks for the tip as I was unaware of that. I think that’s the case for a lot of people too.

  27. David

    28. Apr, 2010

    My brain won’t handle it – who sees what, when, by who, to who -aargh!

    So tell me, I just replied to someone and, in order to reach a wider audience (assuming I understood your article correctly) I added the person’s name again at the end of my post. What if anything did I gain in terms of who will see what I wrote?

    This is what I wrote: (I am @photographworks)

    @IlanBr Yes, that as well. How we suffer for our art (wipes brow and sighs) @illanBr

  28. Laura Matthews

    28. Apr, 2010

    I hate having a conversation clutter my Twitter stream, which I really just want to be news and links and commentary from the people I’m following, but I don’t want to have my feed cluttered with their back and forth. Also, I think people forget that those back and forths are being seen by all, and they post some unfortunate stuff. So I’ve been unfollowing one side of the conversation to cut down on chatter. I’d love it if there were an option not to see the back and forth if we don’t want to, so that I could still follow all those people’s other tweets.

  29. Britt

    28. Apr, 2010

    That’s a great tip–I had no idea!

    You also mentioned in the beginning of your post that one famous question new Twitter users ask is “How do I find people to follow?” I have a rule of thumb here. I usually search for blogs that I love and MOST of the time, those blogs have a Twitter connection button that I can use to connect with them on Twitter. It’s a great way to know that the person you are following will provide valuable information.

  30. Aivo viikberg

    28. Apr, 2010

    A Twitter Tip that Changes Everything

  31. 4ndyman

    30. Apr, 2010

    But Twitter DOES have threaded conversations. If you click the Reply feature (at least on the Twitter Web site and on TweetDeck), your tweet is linked to the tweet you’re replying to. Look for the “In Reply To” under the tweet — it’s actually a link.

    But if you add something before the @username, you break that thread. So your options are a more private threaded conversation, or a public conversation that isn’t threaded.

  32. Rita

    18. May, 2010

    Thanks for all your GREAT Twitter Tips! You always have excellent info. to pass along. Keep up the Good Work.

  33. haz

    21. Jun, 2010

    i still don get it how it works. i had became a follower of a person in tweet. let say person A. but every time i post a message or i reply to his posting message, he didn’t reply me back. wat wrong wif my tweet? is it to be replied with someone who you’re following, the person need to follow me too? pls help me to clarify all this things. i do use @brian to post the msg or reply his msg, but nothing happen…it seems like my post or msg doesn’t appear in his tweet profile..

  34. DonBurton

    01. Sep, 2010

    WOW! Thanks! I just opened a second Twitter account for personal projects and started to notice this discrepancy between “reply” tweets showing up and not showing up. Had no idea. The new rule seems to contradict the entire concept of twitter which is open communication, sharing and reciprocity. Has there been any motions to change this back??? Thanks for the great info!

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