Twitter Mentions are just about synonymous with @replies. Both include your username, however the way users view them (or don't view them) is completely different.
Traditionally, @ replies start with your username and are a publicly visible, personal note to you. In the old days of Twitter, users would be able to see @ replies that any user sent, right in their stream. These days, @ replies are only seen in the public timeline / newsfeed of those who are following both the sender and the recipient.
For example, if you are following @jack and @biz, you'd see any time they Tweet to eachother. However, if you follow @jack and not @biz, those conversations wouldn't show up in the main Twitter feed that you see once you're logged in. Here's a hypothetical conversation between Santa and the Easter Bunny.
- @SantaClaus how's the weather at the North Pole?
- @EasterBunny it's cold, but I've had colder!
- @SantaClaus if you guys are in need of any eggs, I can hop up with some pink and yellow ones
- @EasterBunny sure, but leave the yellow ones at home!
If you followed @SantaClaus but not @EasterBunny, you wouldn't see any of this. If you followed both, you'd see the whole conversation just like you see everyone else's.
These are all examples of Reply Mentions. When a Tweet starts with an @ it's a Reply, it's also a Mention.
A less confusing version of theTwitter Mention is when someone uses your @ username within a Tweet, but not at the beginning. It "mentions" you.
Basically, a Reply is part of a conversation, and a Mention is not. Sometimes a conversation buds from a Mention, for example, if you give a company a shout-out and they decide to Reply to your Tweet by thanking you. Otherwise, it's a one-way street of a Tweet, a single-sided announcement.
Twitter Mentions are common in Modified Tweets (MT), Hat Tips (HT) and ReTweets (RT), like so:
- I am in love with both of these gurus... MT @O_Magazine "Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have."-- Eckhart Tolle
- Big 'ol HT to @TimFerriss for putting me on to @AthleticGreens!
- Too much! RT @HomeDepot What would it take for you to try #composting this year? http://twitpic.com/cu1uba
- It Doesn't Cost Much to Start a Great Business http://buff.ly/1aw2Z5Ih/t @Inc
They're also common in shout-outs, when people love a product or an article, like so:
- I am loving @Wondermade marshmallows!
- Just finished reading Anansi Boys by @NeilGaiman - incredible!
- I can't WAIT for @VampireDiaries to kick back up next season, @JosephMorgan is a hottie!
- Can't wait for the new @SEOMoz launch of #Moz!
Or, they can be used to casually, or aggressively, talk smack about or to a company:
- The re-targeting ads on @Overstock are fierce, I see them on every page I visit!
- It's too bad I'm getting 40mbps on my @VerizonFios 150mbps connection...
- Hey @EmpireMayo, what's taking my white truffle mayo so long to arrive?
- Darn you @CrumbsBakeShop, why aren't you open at 3am? It's this the city that never sleeps?
I'm a big user of Twitter Mentions, because I love the heck out of new products and companies I find. You'll always see me shouting out different types of new food, Kickstarter projects, software (especially time-tracking software), cool ads I find, people that I mention in articles, etc.
And speaking of mentioning people in articles, if you're a blogger, one great way to get your blogs spread is by adding little, quick mini case studies to each of your posts. If you're giving away a quick tip, show an example of a business doing it. That gives you the opportunity to Mention them on Twitter and possibly get the article ReTweeted when they see it.
The big take-away here is that any time someone uses your @ username, they are Mentioning you. Unlike much of the jargon you'll find in the Twitter Glossary here, a Twitter Mention is official lingo, not just community developed.