Accidental @mentions from Instagram to Twitter

August 2, 2013by Reva McPollom0

Yesterday I read an article in Metro New York newspaper and came across a typo. The headline stated that a van had burst into flames outside the Flatiron building in Manhattan, but the first sentence went like this: “A fan burst into flames outside the Flatiron Building at little after 11 a.m.” So immediately I thought, “okay, was it a van or a fan?” I read Metro every day on the way to the office and, let’s face it, they could use a bit more editorial oversight.

I decided to call them out. I took to Instagram today thinking I would kill a few birds with one stone; post it to Instagram, share it to Facebook and Twitter in one fell swoop. Here’s my Instagram post.

Metro New York

Notice the @metronewyork. That’s the Twitter handle of Metro New York newspaper. But when I checked my Twitter profile, I saw something different.

Reva Twitter

Twitter changed my mention from @metronewyork to @danielleiat. I went back and double checked my Instagram post to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Nope, I definitely posted @metronewyork. Then I checked my Facebook profile. No change there either.

Reva Facebook

So what’s happening here? Turns out last October Twitter announced an update to how it handles @mentions from Instagram. The goal of the update was to make sharing photos to Twitter more seamless by translating @mentions for users whose Twitter username and Instagram username differ. Here’s how it works, according to Twitter:

If the @mentioned user has connected Instagram to Twitter:

  • The user’s Instagram username will appear in the photo caption
  • The user’s Twitter username will appear in the tweet

If the @mentioned user has not connected Instagram to Twitter:

  • The user’s Instagram username will appear in the photo caption
  • The @ sign will be removed from the username when shared to Twitter

For @mentions that do not match any Instagram user name, the @ sign will remain when shared to Twitter.

If I understand this correctly it means that @danielleiat must be connected to the Instagram account @MetroNewYork. In other words, the @MetroNewYork Instagram page is connected to the personal Twitter of @danielleiat instead of the newspaper’s official Twitter account.

So while my intention was to call out the newspaper, not any specific writer, I ended up sending a somewhat criticizing tweet to a stranger that might not have been involved with the article at all. In this case, it just so happens that the person whose Twitter account is connected to the MetroNewYork Instagram account is also the writer of the article, but I wasn’t aware of that beforehand and regardless my intent was to digitally heckle a business, not an individual.


  • Social media managers should use official business email addresses and social media accounts should connect to other brand-owned media profiles only, not employee profiles. It’s clear that Twitter approached solving the problem of user names being different across platforms with profile syncing. What that means is syncing your profiles will help ensure that do not miss social engagement opportunities. Whether it’s a positive mention or a critical one, if brand mentions on Instagram translate to mention someone else on Twitter, that’s a missed an opportunity to engage with your audience via social media.
  • If you’re going to engage in social media, representing your brand consistently across all social media platforms with the same name/@name/page name is the best approach.
  • Professional social media management is perhaps the best way to increase brand visibility and engagement in social media. What really stands out to me is that the newspaper decided to have someone within the organization set up social media profiles without a clear cut strategy or understanding of social media best practices.


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