Day 4 of #STEMD10DoT: directing @ messages at people

You’ve sent some tweets, followed people and hopefully gained some followers of your own. Some people prefer to listen more than they tweet, which is fine – the only thing to consider is, the more you say about your interests, the more people will know what kind of information might be useful to you, and direct relevant things your way. It’s a way of fine-tuning your twitter feed as well as providing useful information to others.

Sometimes you might want to address a tweet to someone – it will be visible to other followers, but you want to catch a particular person’s attention with it. This might be because you are replying to or responding to one of their tweets, asking them a question, because you think they might be particularly interested in the information passed on in your tweet and want to make sure it catches their eye, or because you mention them in the tweet and want them to know, for example, if you retweet one of their tweets or are talking about their work. It may also be that you don’t follow that person, or they don’t follow you, but you still want to catch their attention with one particular tweet: they will still see it if you include their @username. For example:

  • ‘hey, @scholastic_rat, enjoyed your presentation! Do you know @libgoddess’s work on this subject?’
  • Giving a talk at your uni next week, @scholastic_rat – are you around for coffee? would be great to meet up!
  • Great resources on using social media in teaching – of interest, @scholastic_rat?
  • Reading @libgoddess’s chapter on information literacy: some intriguing ideas!
  • I recommend this too! RT @scholastic_rat “a good read on digital scholarship! “

To call someone’s attention to a tweet with an @mention, you use their username or ‘handle’ preceded by a @ sign. For example, to let me know you’ve mentioned me, you would include ‘@scholastic_rat’  in the tweet. This is another reason to keep your Twitter handle as short as you can – it uses up some of the 140 characters! This is a feature that originated with the users of Twitter, which was then designed into the platform. It’s what has turned Twitter from a broadcast medium of updates into a conversation, and that’s Twitter’s real strength. Note – as the @ sign is reserved for marking people’s handles, you can’t use it as an abbreviation for ‘at’, for example, ‘let’s meet @6pm @cafe’ – it will treat these as an @message, and it’s likely that someone, somewhere, will have chosen @6pm or @cafe as a handle!

A small but important point is where you place the @username. If you are responding to a tweet, using the ‘reply’ button, then Twitter will automatically begin your tweet response with the @username, and you can then type the rest of your message. However, if the very first thing in the tweet is someone’s @username, then only that person and those who follow both of you will be able to see it. If you want the tweet to have a wider audience, then you either need to put a full stop in front of the @ sign like this:  .@scholastic_rat  OR you could include the @username later on in your tweet as part of the sentence, for example: ‘reading @scholastic_rat’s blog post about Twitter – some useful tips!’

Why might you want a wider audience to see conversations between you and another user?

What’s in it for them:

  • It’s polite to acknowledge them if you’re retweeting something they’ve said, or to let them know if you’re commenting on their work
  • You are drawing attention to them and their work to people who don’t already follow them – they get publicity and new followers

What’s in it for you:

  • You gain a reputation as a polite, helpful, knowledgeable and well-connected professional
  • You may also gain new followers or make new connections

What’s in it for followers:

  • They get to know about someone’s work which they may have been unaware of, and a new person to follow
  • They are offered a chance to contribute to the discussion too, and thereby gain new contacts and audiences
  • If replying to someone who’s passed on useful information to you specifically, it’s helpful to copy in their reply to your tweet response, in case your followers are also interested in the information.

Of course, there may be times when you don’t want a wide audience to see the interaction, if it’s not going to be understandable out of context, or of interest to them but just cluttering up their feed, and in these cases, you can just start the message with ‘@’.  Remember that Twitter is a very public medium, and whether you @message someone or not,  your tweets will be visible to anyone who views your profile. If you really want to send a message to just one person, but don’t want it publicly visible, Twitter allows you to send them a DM or Direct Message

To see @messages directed at you, click on the tab marked @ Connect in your profile. They will also appear in your Twitter stream, but you may miss them there! Depending on your settings, you can also receive an email when someone @messages you.

So- send some @messages to people you follow- ask them a question, comment on something they’ve tweeted! And send me (@scholastic_rat) an @message with the hashtag #STEM10DoT !


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