I have noticed some of the people in my Twitter stream are starting to use a . before the @. I didn’t understand the difference until today. Thanks to #NT2T (New Teachers to Twitter Chat — Saturdays at 9:00 am EST) I now understand the difference.
The difference lies in the fact that Twitter itself makes a distinction between the types of tweets we send. I did not realize this until today. I always thought a tweet was a tweet. Not so, my good fellow.
When you start a tweet with an @ symbol you are sending what is called a “reply” even if you haven’t sent something to that person.
Replies are posted to the timeline of the people mentioned. In the post above, @s_Bearden, @fishtree_edu and @ilorax will have this reply posted on their timeline. People that follow all 4 of us will be able to see it. Since it also has a hashtag (#NT2t) in it, everyone that searches for that hashtag will be able to see it even if they don’t follow any of us. (That is the reason for the hashtag.)
Mentions are tweets that include a user’s handle somewhere inside the tweet, in this case I mention both @s_bearden and @TweechmeApp. Mentions are treated differently than replies. Mentions are posted to your timeline and to the timelines of those mentioned in the tweet. In the mention shown, all of my followers, all of @s_bearden’s followers and all of @TweechmeApp’s followers can see the tweet.
It is the difference between a reply and a mention that brings us to the period. People have begun putting a . before the @ symbol so their tweet can be treated like a mention. By Twitter’s rules (See here for the help page.), this would cause the tweet to be included in everyone’s timeline and therefore seen by more people (the followers of all mentioned). It doesn’t have to be a period. It could be any character other than the @ symbol. The (.) looks less cluttered.
The confusion comes when we throw in a hashtag. Hashtags are for searching, not for messaging. The hashtag is used so we can find common ground. Without the # we would all be shouting into the wind hoping someone heard us. I am thankful for the #NT2T. It has allowed me to learn and grow while at the same time passing along the specific knowledge I may have acquired about Twitter.
I hope this has helped clear up the (.) question. Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions.