Users of social media messaging site, Twitter, may not be aware that the choice of message type they use will affect who will see their communication and what the effect it is likely be from the perspective of other twitter users.

Firstly, just to explain a bit more about ‘Twitter’ and ‘Tweeting’. Twitter is a social media (user created content) web site that provides a messaging service based on 140 character limited messages, much like text messages. Messages can include hash tags (#hashtag) to highlight key words and HTML links to other web content. It offers a number of different message types from a general ‘Tweet’ which (unless protected) potentially everyone can see, to direct (or private) messages that go only to the identified individual. These take the format shown below:

* ‘This is a general tweet’
* ‘d e_mphasis I’m sending a direct message to say thanks for showing me this article’

The other 2 main types of message available are sometimes confused by twitter users and often end of used interchangeably. However, the retweet and the reply offer 2 very different means of communicating with other users on twitter.


The Re-tweet or ‘RT’ echoes another users’ message to your own followers and can be done in one of 2 ways.

  1. Automatically: Using the new twitter Re-tweet function (or via other twitter enabled software such as Hootsuite) which literally echoes the message on as an exact copy of the original as if you had sent it (but shown as a tweet of the original sender)
    2. Manually: By prefixing the original post with RT @ this also indicates to twitter that it should be considered a retweet.

This Re-tweet has the effect of making the senders account name (e.g. @e_mphasis) visible to your followers whether they follow the original sender or not. The effect is to increasing the reach of the message and make additional members aware of the sender and their message.


Replies on the other hand (messages that start with @) create a conversation. Conversations are only visible to both parties involved (sender and recipient) and other users who happen to follow both the sender and recipient. Therefore, using reply makes the communication more private than would otherwise be the case for a standard tweet.

In summary, if you want to keep your messages between friends, then REPLY whereas if you are looking to promote someone use a RETWEET.

Happy tweeting!