I am often surprised by the continuing confusion about the “@” on Twitter.  There have been a few times when I have mentioned to someone in my Twitter network about the limitation of beginning a tweet with an @”name”.  I mentioned it when it seemed clear that it was not their intention to reply only to that person, but they just happened to use the person’s Twitter handle at the beginning of the tweet.  However, Twitter treats it as a reply.

I agree with many who write about it being “all about the hashtag” in terms of good conversation and connecting people and topics, but I also feel strongly about the value of “@ convos” on Twitter.  I have been catching quite a few posts regarding following/unfollowing and how that affects networks and connections on Twitter.  I think these are helpful discussions as we still continue to sort all this out and reflect on how to use social media in valuable and personally relevant ways.  What I do continue to hear and read is the importance of conversations and replies between people that also allow others to join in.  So I have decided to post in support of the “@” and transparent, open conversations, and to help those who often ask, “What is with the . in front of people’s tweets?” 🙂

It is quite simple, but still somewhat confusing:

The . in front of the @ allows all of your followers to see the tweet, whether it is meant as a “reply to” or simply a mention of someone’s Twitter handle beginning the tweet.  Only “@” in front or at the beginning of a tweet would only allow mutual followers of yourself and @”name” to see the tweet.   (It is also important to know that your replies are not private to those you “@” and could be seen by common followers, or if somone views your profile page directly.)  Using the .  in front changes it from a reply to a regular public tweet and allows anyone to join the conversation or comment on what you have tweeted.  (Someone can also retweet a direct reply for all their followers to see or to join the conversation).

This may still sound as clear as mud, and I was happy to see this older link tweeted just today explaining this change on Twitter.  It also provides some helpful examples regarding this. And now I have it all handy… in the name of conversation 🙂

If anyone else can explain it clearer, please add.

(special thanks to Doug Peterson (@dougpete) for discussion and resources relating to this)