How To Twitter: What Is a Subtweet?


You may be seeing an unfamiliar term being thrown about on Twitter these days, the “subtweet”.

What is a subtweet, you may ask?

Basically, “subtweet” means a message on Twitter that subtly refers to another person, by not using the standard method of including their Twitter handle with the “@” symbol, i.e. @Forechecker if you were mentioning me. The purpose of a subtweet is often to talk about another person without addressing them directly, or inviting a reply (since they could easily see any tweets containing their handle).

So a subtweet is applicable when you either don’t want to recognize an individual publicly (say, a friend who you don’t want to embarrass) or don’t want them to see it (for fear of repercussions).

A Subtweet Example

Here is a textbook example of a subtweet. When it comes to local radio personalities on competing stations, the prevailing culture dictates that they don’t address each other directly. For someone like me coming from a blogging background, this is absurd – but hey, we’re talking about old-school media here. In this situation, two local sports talk hosts take up opposite ends of a point when the Tennessee Titans fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer.

WGFX’s Clay Travis ridiculed Palmer’s background ever since he was hired by the Titans, since his previous stint was as the offensive coordinator for the United Football League’s Hartford franchise. So here’s what he had to say when Palmer was fired by the Titans:

Willy Daunic over at 102.5 The Game took the respectful view, however, subtweeting a response later that evening:

In this case, Daunic is clearly reacting to Travis, but can’t call him out by name. Instead, he invokes the “Don’t Be That Guy” label, which refers to a recurring radio segment wherein Daunic invites callers to give examples of “guys” who nobody should attempt to emulate.

Perfectly executed subtweet there by Daunic, with a bit of personal branding thrown in. Well done…

Beware the risk!

While the example above shows why someone would want to subtweet for professional concerns, often people use the subtweet in a passive-aggressive fashion, griping about an individual without addressing them directly. When the target of that griping sees those messages, it makes the subtweeter look rather petty.

So take care when using the subtweet… it’s hardly a “stealth technology” on Twitter, but it can be appropriate at times. Just ask yourself – if the intended subject of this message saw it, will you stand by what you write?