Day 4: Retweeting & @messages/mentions

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—but the more you say about your interests, the more other Tweeters will know to direct relevant things your way. Sharing and conversing is a way of fine-tuning your twitter feed as well as providing useful information to others.

Today we’ll look at:

Sharing other people’s content

  • Retweeting
  • Quote Tweeting
  • Retweeting etiquette

Messages & mentions

  • How to send a tweet directed to someone in particular
  • How to reply to tweets
  • Why and how you might converse in public
  • How to send a direct (private) message



To use Twitter effectively to promote your own work, you need to update frequently with interesting content to gain a following, and you also need to reciprocate and promote the work of others. Retweeting fulfills both of these goals. Retweeting is a bit like forwarding an email, but to everyone who’s following you. They see the content of the original tweet, who it came from originally, and, maybe a contextualising comment from you. By doing this, you’re performing a valuable service:

  • to your followers, by sifting the stream of information available to them, filtering out what’s potentially interesting to them, and also by making them aware of potential new contacts they can add to their network.
  • to the people you follow, by amplifying their message and spreading it outside their network (and also possibly putting them in touch with new contacts)
  • and of course, you’re displaying to others that you’re well connected to interesting and important people, and that you are a discerning judge of what information is interesting and significant!

To retweet a message, simply click the ‘retweet’ button at the bottom of a tweet. The grey number next it tells you how many times it’s already been retweeted.


The message will then appear in your followers’ twitter streams as if it appeared from the original sender, even though they may not follow them. There will be a small notification about the tweet stating that this has been ‘retweeted by @yourname.’ You can see in the retweet above, that the tweet was retweet by ‘UofT10DoT.’

Quote tweeting

But simply retweeting doesn’t say much about why you’re sending out into your feed. Is the tweet funny? Is this news item something you’re pleased with? Is this observation an annoying misconception you see too often?  

Sometimes you’ll want to add commentary to a tweet. When you hit retweet on a mobile device, you will have the option to either just retweet or to quote the tweet and add a comment. On the desktop version of Twitter, the retweet function defaults to quote mode, but you can decide to add a comment or not.


In this example, I am commenting on @UofT10DoT’s retweet and mentioning @EvelineLH to thank her for sharing, because I know she retweeted this tweet. 

If you only want to retweet a URL link that someone else has shared, you can just paste the URL into a new tweet add ‘via @name’ or ‘HT @name’ (HT stands for ‘hat tip’ or ‘heard through,’ depending on who you ask).

Quote Tweeting etiquette

Be judicious when quote tweeting. Ask yourself if you are really adding anything to the content for your followers. Be particularly sensitive to quote tweeting tweets of persons from marginalized communities. When you quote tweet, any likes or Twitter activity will be assigned to you and not the original tweeter. To be an ally, use your platform to amplify the voices of others by retweeting them and letting them speak for themselves.

How to send a tweet directed to someone in particular

Sometimes you just want to send a tweet out into the world, but sometimes you might want to address a tweet to someone—visible to other followers, but written to catch a particular person’s attention.

This might be because you are replying to one of their tweets, or because you want to ask them a question, or perhaps you’ve found an article you think they’d like, or want to tell them how much you’re enjoying their article!


You don’t have to follow someone to tweet at them, and they don’t have to follow you to respond.

To tag someone in a tweet, type out their username, preceded by the @ symbol. For example, to call Eveline’s attention to your tweet, you would include ‘@EvelineLH’ in your tweet.



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 ‘@’.

The @ symbol can only be used to tag people; you can’t use it as an abbreviation for ‘at.’ Tweeting ‘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!

To see @messages directed at you, click on the tab marked Notifications with the bell icon, at the top of the screen.


Screenshot of the notifications button


They will also appear in your Twitter stream, but you may miss them there if you’ve got a busy feed!

You can choose to receive an email when someone @messages you by choosing Settings > Email Notifications in the top left hand menu.

Some example tweets that tag or address a specific person:

  • hey, @jessecarliner, your presentation was interesting! Have you read @amirightfolks’s work in this area?
  • Giving a talk at UofT next week. @EvelineLH – are you around for coffee? Would be great to meet up!
  • Reading @libgoddess’s chapter on information literacy: some intriguing ideas!

This is another reason to keep your Twitter name as short as you can – it uses up some of the 140 characters! Being able to reply to users is what makes Twitter a medium for conversation rather than merely a broadcast platform. These conversations are Twitter’s real strength.

How to reply to tweets

To reply to someone, or to ‘tag’ them in a Tweet, type out their username, preceded by the @ symbol. For example, to let me know you’ve mentioned me, you would include ‘@jessecarliner’ in your tweet. If you’re replying to a tweet, clicking the ‘reply’ option which appears in grey in each tweet, will automatically insert the person’s @name at the beginning of your your tweet.

With the exception of high profile celebrities with thousands of followers, Twitter users generally check their notifications and respond to many of the tweets sent to them. And the same should go for you! If you start a conversation, or ask a question, be expecting a response in your own notification feed. Being able to reply to users is what makes Twitter a medium for conversation rather than merely a broadcast platform. These conversations are Twitter’s real strength.

Why and how you might converse in public

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.

screenshot of someone replying to a tweet

screen shot of the start of a twitter reply

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 see it in their newsfeed. 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: .@jessecarliner OR you could include the @username later on in your tweet as part of the sentence, for example: ‘hey @scholastic_rat, your blog post about Twitter is super helpful!’

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 your 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.

How to send a direct (private) message

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 to anyone else, you can send a Direct Message, which is private—but you can only send DMs to people who are following you. You can view and send DMs from the little mail icon. DM’s are not limited to 140 characters like tweets.

screenshot of a DM notification


(If you want to practice sending a Direct Message, feel free to contact me! If I’ve accidentally failed to follow you, let me know!).

Today’s Assignment:

  1. Send a couple of @messages to people you follow. Ask them a question, draw their attention to something, comment on something they’ve tweeted! Reply to anyone who messages you, as long as they appear genuine and professional. And remember to send me (@jessecarliner) an @message to tell me how it’s going!
  2. Take a look at your twitter stream and see if you can find tweets you think your followers might be interested in – funding opportunities, calls for papers, an item of news, a new blog post or publication someone’s tweeted about, a comment you agree with…and start retweeting!

Further reading: 

Twitter for Economists (slideshow in PDF)


10 Days of Twitter at U of T!


Welcome! If you’ve signed up for the University of Toronto’s Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) course 10 Days of Twitter, this is where you’ll want to check-in each day from Feb. 6-17, 2017

How the course works

See the About page for more info.