Blog Featured Image, Outsmart Twitter

Although it’s only been in recent years that Twitter has taken over the top spot as my favourite social media network, I’ve been active on the platform for long enough to have witnessed it evolve. Yet, they still refuse to fix this flaw.

Twitter’s Simplicity Makes It Great

Twitter’s simplicity offers a major differentiating factor when compared to other major social networks. From its inception, it set out to be a place that promoted direct and easy connection. Twitter also influences clearer communication, by forcing users to be concise.

Sending a tweet is like what Facebook’s status updates used to be. A quick sentence that can tell the world what’s on our minds at that very moment.

Facebook has since over-complicated their platform, forcing users to break through technical barriers before any actual connection can be made. Whereas Twitter has maintained its approach, paving a much shorter path for tweeters to follow.

Sure, there have been innovations along the way. An increased maximum word count; the star is now a heart; and, becoming verified is no longer an easy feat. However, despite an evolved look, Twitter’s feel has remained the same.

With that said, as much as I appreciate the simplicity Twitter owns at its core, progress doesn’t have to elicit complexity. Revising the rules of the platform doesn’t have to lessen the experience. Quite the opposite, in fact, as some fixes are both necessary and an upgrade.

A Twitter Mistake That Evades Most

Most aren’t even aware of the problem I’m here to address, but ignorance is far from bliss when it comes to Twitter tactics. That’s exactly why it’s imperative that you pay attention.

You could very well be part of the population that simply tweets away, without ever realizing that avoiding this one crucial step in your setup means you’re losing out on potential exposure as a result.

Let’s see if you notice the subtle difference between the following two tweets:

Tweet #1

There’s no trickery there. It’s exactly as you see it. Take another moment, just to be sure, and read Tweet #1 again. Then, go straight to Tweet #2, below, so the difference is that much more apparent.

Tweet #2

Did you catch it?

There is a clear timestamp on both tweets, which illustrates that these were sent one right after the other (within the same minute, actually). This is not a result of marketing magic or image editing. What you see is what you get.

So, if that’s the case, why does only one of these show up on my actual profile for all to see?

While Tweet #1 ends up in my “Tweets” feed, Tweet #2 reserves its spot under “Tweets & replies”. If you’re not sure why that’s important, keep reading.

First, if you’re still unsure as to the difference between those two tweets, it’s merely in the placement of the @. One tweet starts with it, the other does not. As minor as that may sound, it makes a major difference in the potential audience for any given tweet you think you’re putting out for the world to see.

Case in point, Tweet #1’s impressions were over 77% higher than Tweet #2’s by the time this article was published.

What Is Happening, Exactly?

Not to create complexity by answering a question with a question, but that’s a relevant place to start. When you reply to a tweet, have you noticed that Twitter automatically includes respective usernames already involved before you even start typing anything?

For example:

Mr. Always Write, The Little Things Blog

Between Alexandra’s original tweet and where “Tweet your reply” sits as a placeholder in my message box, you can see that Twitter already included the “Replying to @thelittleblogca” line.

Maybe you’ve realized that or maybe you haven’t. At the very least, you’ve seen it occur and just accepted it, in that it makes sense for Twitter to add the names of those you’re responding to. It’s a logical efficiency.

Now, let’s dig a little deeper into the issue at hand. It’s one thing for this social juggernaut to strongarm its structure for your replies. While it’s a completely different scenario when they mistake an independent message, being crafted as its own thought, as though it’s not. That’s what’s happening here.

When you start your tweet with someone’s username as the first word, like what’s illustrated in Tweet #2, Twitter’s programming defaults to forming it as a reply. Again, that’s how they’ve always assumed a response should appear, with a username starting the message. So they force that into practice even if it’s not what you think you’re doing.

Clearly, it’s not malicious. They are generally a user-friendly platform. Yet, it is annoying. You’d think it’s an easy fix on their end, too. Almost as though a stubbornness to maintain simplicity is prohibiting this advancement.

Avoid Sending Tweets as Replies

Still not seeing the issue? Let’s revisit our “Tweets & replies” sections. That pillar of content lands to the right of the “Tweets” area — the area that justifiably garners most of the focus by default.

Wait, those areas are different? Yes, very.

When you send out an independent tweet, as opposed to a reply to one, your followers will have a greater chance of being exposed to that original message. Whereas to see your contributions within an existing conversation, your connections would need to dig further into your profile.

Hence, what you send as its own thought lands in the “Tweets” section and a reply ends up piled into “Tweets & replies”.

I recognize that the tweets you start with an @username are often intended to be independent thoughts. The problem is that Twitter doesn’t. They treat them like replies, which means only those they assume you are replying to will be more prone to actually seeing that message.

Simply stated, if you start a tweet with a username as the first word then Twitter automatically categorizes it as a reply and it ends up in the “Tweets & replies” section, not with your “Tweets”. As such, that message avoids hitting your public timeline as only your “Tweets” make it there for all to see.

An Odd But Relevant Social Exception

There is one exception to all of this, though. Now, I wouldn’t rely on it to solve the noted problem, but it’s still relevant nonetheless. This could seem like it overcomplicates things, but it does add up.

Suppose you begin a tweet with a username. In that case, any common followers that are connected with both you and the account you mention are then part of the limited population that could end up scrolling past it in their actual timeline. An odd loophole, but it’s there.

For instance, if you start your tweet with @mralwayswrite and your best friend (who also follows) me checks their socials soon thereafter, they’ll have a realistic chance of seeing it. However, that other acquaintance you barely ever talk to anymore (because they refuse to read my work) won’t notice it in the same manner, as it simply can’t appear in their main feed.

Think of it this way. Those that populate our respective networks often share common interests. I follow @TSN_Sports and a good portion of my connections do, as well. So, if TSN’s username is what starts my next tweet, those I’m connected with who also follow TSN will see it in their timeline. On the other hand, colleagues who don’t follow that account won’t see it in the same way. They’d have to check my replies section to find that tweet, as opposed to it being visible on their timeline.

Again, this is an exception, not a solution. Stay focused on what will fix the potential problem.

How to Avoid This Silly Twitter Error

You’ve likely seen others implement their preferred strategy to bypass this annoyance without realizing that’s what they’re doing. For instance, have you ever noticed a tweet that started with a period? Well, this is why.

As I illustrated earlier, the above tweet is now treated as the start of a chain as opposed to seeming like a reply to @TwitterCanada in another one. Adding anything before the @username is a surefire way to push your content into the lane you intend it to end up in while avoiding the congestion of your reply section.

Stop starting tweets with a username. When you do, a major portion of your network is then far less likely to see what you are saying. Placement matters. Just include their name anywhere else in the message and the crisis can be averted.

Below is an illustration of my go-to strategy:

You deserve to be heard. Avoiding this oddity will help maximize your exposure and make your content visible to the audience you’re after.

Believe me, your engagement rates will appreciate it.

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Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to aesthetics. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. #GirlDad