When You Reply on Twitter Can Everyone See Your Reply?

By Elizabeth Mott

Whom you follow on Twitter can determine what you see.
i Oli Scarff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Twitter enables your business to engage directly with customers and prospects in a social-media environment based on 140-character updates, called Tweets, posted to individualized timelines. Understanding and controlling who sees what you say on Twitter holds the key to using the service effectively. When you create a reply to another Twitter user, the rules that govern the visibility of your Tweet include some special provisions and important exceptions.


A Twitter reply begins with an "@," followed by the name of the user to whom you're replying. You can use two methods to create a Twitter reply: click on the "Reply" button below a message to reply directly to that Tweet, creating a conversation; or type "@[username]" in the Tweet box to create a reply manually, replacing [username] with the name of a Twitter user. By default, a reply becomes visible to the person you address and to anyone who follows her. When you reply to someone who doesn't follow you, your Tweet doesn't appear in her regular timeline. If she searches for all Tweets addressed to her, she'll see your reply.

Direct Messages

Direct Messages provide a means for private communication. Crafted in a separate portion of the Web-based Twitter interface, DMs offer you a way to send a one-to-one Tweet to someone who follows you. Whereas only its creator -- or Twitter itself -- can delete a regular Tweet, either party to a DM can delete it. Unless you or the person to whom you send the DM copies its content and pastes it into a regular Tweet, a DM remains invisible to everyone except its creator and recipient.


Search enables you to view Tweets that otherwise wouldn't appear in your timeline, including replies addressed to people you don't follow. If another user searches for replies addressed to a specific individual, your replies to that individual appear in the search results, with one exception. Replies to individuals with protected accounts fall under a separate set of rules.

Protected Accounts

Twitter offers users the ability to protect their accounts. Anyone who wants to follow a protected account must request and receive approval to do so. If you invoke this privacy provision, only your profile remains visible to anyone you don't approve as a follower. When you reply to a protected account, only the account holder and his approved followers can see your reply, which also remains invisible to search tools. Account protection doesn't cover Tweets and replies created before the user protected his account.

Special Provisions

Twitter offers one undocumented way to make a reply to any unprotected account visible on the Timeline of anyone who follows you, regardless of whether they follow the person to whom you reply. If you type a period in front of the "@" sign that begins a reply, you make your reply more broadly visible than it otherwise would be.