Hey, @twitter, here’s this one thing you should fix

TL;DR: If protected account follows someone, that someone should be allowed to see protected account’s tweets in which this someone is mentioned.

About mentions

It’s no coincidence that the title of this article contains a word which is formatted as twitter „mention”. Mentions are great help to users, marketers and everyone else who uses twitter for communication with friends, brands, companies, local businesses, peers, professionals and opinion leaders. It is a great way to ensure that we are heard by account holders who don’t follow us. I enjoy and use this feature both as brand marketer and simple everyday user. Thanks for that! But there’s room for improvement:

Protected (Private) accounts

The other thing is that all the accounts can be divided in two groups- the ones which are protected (or private) and the ones which aren’t. On this occasion I will talk about the ones which are private and how twitter handles mentions for these accounts.

Relationships between accounts

Right now there is just one kind of relationship possible between two twitter accounts- either one is following the other account or it is not. Yes, there is this one thing for protected accounts- they can choose whether to allow someone to follow them or not. But that’s it- after allowing someone to follow them, they become simple followers (who have the privilege to see tweets made by this account).

What’s the problem?

In order to see tweets mentioning me (or just simple plain replies) from protected accounts I have to follow them. There is no other way. This is not a problem for accounts like Justin Bieber’s which follow thousands of users (and it’s clear to everyone that no one could ever read all those tweets). It is problem for opinion leaders, sophisticated brands (who follow just professionals of their professional field), small business owners and everyone else who have short following lists (which are actually being read) and a lot followers that he, she or brand doesn’t follow and for whatever reasons has no intention to follow (or to follow just the ones with protected accounts- for the same reasons).

Why it’s a problem?

On several occasions, when I go through the follower lists to see if there’s someone I know (or should follow for some other reasons) I have found such persons with protected accounts and when they approve me, I usually look in their streams to see what they are up to. Sometimes that’s the first time I see that they have responded to my tweets or mentioned me in tweets to other persons. And by the looks of it I’m 100% sure that they had no idea (and still don’t have) that I haven’t seen those tweets previously (when they were tweeted). To them I seem just ignorant or worse, they suppose that their opinions or answers to my questions don’t mean anything to me. This is a bad PR both for brand or person.

The same goes for brands. I have been managing several accounts for brands and when I do, I make sure that I follow bloggers, other brands (competition), partners and other accounts which are relevant to that brand’s field. That helps to get a lot of valuable information, engage in conversations regarding brand’s values and products and see the big picture to know how to do my job better and help the client. It becomes almost impossible to see this by just twitter stream if I start to follow everyone with protected accounts. I know, there’s always the possibility to make lists for specialty-related accounts, but I don’t believe in them, I see them as cumbersome (they are hard to manage and have other limitations I’m not fond of).

And small business owners who manage just their one twitter stream (and use it semi-professionally) will never think of this limitation.

Last example was two days ago- I have a friend (diet specialist, who is managing my diet I’m blogging about) and there have been some discussions with my followers about my diet in which I mention my friend. She notices that, so she sometimes jumps to answer some questions to these guys (with mentioning me). I notice this because I follow her, but the person she is answering to will never see this tweet and she will never know that her message didn’t get across.

Solution- introducing of new kind of relationship between twitter accounts

To be precise, it wouldn’t be new kind of relationship between accounts but a simple exception.

If protected account follows someone, that someone should be allowed to see protected account’s tweets in which this someone is mentioned.

Just the tweets that mention this one account. Simple as that. This can be taken further- allow to see only mentions which are made as replies to tweets, but that would make it a little bit too complicated and hard to explain to users- I suppose that there are quite many who don’t use “reply” button.

Where’s the upside?

  • Brands could get better feedback and solve problems
  • More engaging conversations between twitter users
  • No more frustration for people who engage in various conversations but never receive any answers to their tweets
  • No more need to follow accounts just to know if something is being said to me
  • Better overall user experience for owners of protected accounts


  • Minor privacy issues
  • Users will have to remember not to use @usernames when talking thrash about someone behind their backs

Thanks for reading this, I welcome you to leave your feedback in comments. Do you agree?