Twitter Tip: Context in Responses

Here’s a quick Twitter tip for you: Give context in your @replies and DMs.

“Yeah, that’s so true,” means nothing to me. I have no idea what you’re responding to. You could be reacting to any of the 8.4 tweets I post in an average day. Or you could be responding to something I said three days ago. How am I supposed to know?

It’s especially awkward when someone challenges or insults me. Sorry man, but I don’t know what you’re getting offended about unless you give me a little context. And I can’t give you a source on “that” unless you tell me what “that” is.

This lack of context for conversations is probably one of the biggest downsides to Twitter’s setup (which is saying a lot—this is a minor complaint) and it’s a definite area where Facebook is far superior.

(This is a fine example of when a 140-character limit would have produced a better result.)

Update: A few folks have pointed out that the thread of an @reply conversation is something Twitter is set up to follow. It’s just not immediately obvious. On the Twitter site, the tiny, grayed out text below an @reply will include a link back to the relevant tweet, assuming someone clicked on the ‘reply’ button in the first place. Most Twitter apps pick up on this and deploy the feature in some manner (though again, it’s not always obvious).

Good info to know, making me look kind of dumb.

Of course it still helps to give context in your response. Without context you have to assume someone knows about these features and assume that they used the ‘reply’ button. Sometimes just appending your “LOL” with a “Funky Chicken:” makes all the difference.

6 thoughts on “Twitter Tip: Context in Responses”

  1. With only 140 characters, it’s often not feasible to give much context. Luckily, Twitter takes care of this on their end.

    When you reply to another person’s update using the reply button on Twitter.com or the built-in reply function in most Twitter clients, their API stores what message you are responding to.

    Hence on Twitter.com, your message will be phrased thusly:

    “Lorem ipsum no quo possit commune percipit.”
    xx minutes ago from Method in reply to whomever

    And whomever serves as a link to the original message you are replying to.

    Just a tip for anyone who runs up against this wall in the future.

  2. Ah, I see they do have this functionality built in. Looks like you can double click a reply in Tweetie to see a conversation thread and in HootSuite they have a ‘in reply to’ thing you can click on. Slick.

    Guess I learn something new every day.

    I’d still maintain that it’s helpful to give context in your responses anyway. People don’t always notice these functionalities (like, um, me) and people don’t always reply that way.

  3. It’s just interesting that a power user (can I call myself a power user?) like myself who’s been twittering for nearly two years hasn’t even noticed this functionality before.

    Either I’m clueless or it’s a little too hidden in the user interface. (I suppose it’s also likely that they want it to remain hidden–only the hardcore users will find it and it won’t distract the casual users. There’s something to be said for keeping the interface simple.)

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