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Twitter Tips: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask

The Huffington Post     First Posted: 12/13/11 07:02 PM ET   Updated: 12/13/11 07:02 PM ET

Twitter: so few characters, so much confusion.

Filled with "@" signs, "#" symbols, "RTs" and "MTs," Twitter timelines can look like baffling algebra equations to those unfamiliar with the lingo. The differences between DMs and RTs are anything but obvious for newbies, while deciphering the limitations of "@replies" and the etiquette of hashtags presents its own host of challenges.

Though the microblogging service, which now claims over 100 million active users who send more than 230 million tweets per day, offers fewer bells and whistles than many other social networking sites, Twitter's rules, features, tricks and exceptions can be bewildering -- just ask Anthony Weiner.

We've put together a Twitter explainer that walks you through everything you always wanted to know about Twitter tools, but were afraid to ask.

Are there other things you just don't get about Twitter? More features you find confusing? Tweet your Twitter headaches to @bbosker. For more on using Twitter, check out our guide to 23 tools to help you tweet like a pro, as well as our story on "Twitter 101" for Twitter newbies.

Who Can See "@" Replies
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One of the most confusing features for Twitter newbies, the "@reply" has befuddled thousands of users perplexed by when to use the feature, how it works, and who sees the tweets.

As its name suggests, the "@reply" function allows users to reply to other Twitterer's tweets with questions, comments, responses and the like. It consists of a tweet that begins with another user's Twitter handle. For example, sending a tweet that reads "@HuffPostTech love your story about Twitter tips!" would count as an @reply.

@Replies are public, but there's a catch: If you send a tweet that begins with an @reply, it will not be visible to all of your followers, but only the subsection of your followers that follow both you AND the person you've sent a reply to. For example, if @HuffingtonPost tweets, "@HuffPostTech has a great article about Twitter," only people that follow @HuffingtonPost AND @HuffPostTech will see the messages. In Twitter's words, "People will only see others' replies in their home timeline if they are following both the sender and recipient of the update."

For this reason, @replies are frequently used as a way of communicating between Twitter users and eliminates from people's timelines tweets that may only be interesting to a subset of followers.

An @reply falls within a broader category of "Mentions," which Twitter defines as "any Twitter update that contains @username anywhere in the body of the Tweet."

To send an @reply, you can either click the blue "Reply" link that appears when you mouse over a tweet, or compose a tweet as you normally would and begin it with the user's Twitter handle. If you'd like to lead a tweet with a Twitter username (as @MGrooves has done in the screenshot above) but share it with all your followers, add another character, such as a period, quotation mark or colon, before the username to ensure it's seen by all.
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