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The downside of using text alerts for Twitter

Thousands of people use mobile notifications so they can get alerts about Twitter mentions and more. Here's one problem they may not have anticipated.

Even the most careful user of Twitter can end up sending accidental public tweets like this if he or she has Twitter's mobile notifications turned on. (Credit: Twitter; screenshot by Sree Sreenivasan/CNET)

In my social-media workshops around the country, the statement I make that gets the most incredulous response is always the same one: I take three to six minutes crafting each tweet I send.

Yes, that's right. I sometimes take even more than that much time to get every aspect of my tweets as right as possible. No typos? Check. Accurate link? Check. Accurate handle of writer I had to hunt down? Check. Accurate "via" to give credit? Check. All of that takes time and patience.

The reason for this much care is that my tweets reflect on me, my work, and the institutions I represent. Besides, tweets are likely the only thing I write that will end up in the Library of Congress.

So with all that care and time, how in the world did I send out the ridiculous tweet pictured above?

The answer is a culprit that trips up thousands of folks every day: Mobile notifications. These alerts that come via text message to your cell phone are a great way to keep track of Twitter activity when you can't get easily to or Twitter management tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck.

Because the tweets appear in your stream of text messages, it is easy to hit Reply thinking you are texting back a response. You are, but not to the person who tweeted at you. You're texting back to Twitter, which can then send out the message as a public tweet (if you've set up Twitter to allow you to tweet via SMS -- a good idea in emergencies).

Please be careful if you get your tweets via text message -- or you could end up having someone respond like in this tweet:

If you tell people you take several minutes to craft each tweet and you screw up, you'll get called out on it. (Credit: Twitter; screenshot by Sree Sreenivasan/CNET)

Just be sure to double-check every time you reply via text -- is the message going to Twitter or going to an individual person?

As with all digital services, get to know your settings (look for "Settings" or "Edit my profile") and manage the various options there:

Where to look for optimizing your Twitter settings. (Credit: Twitter; screenshot by Sree Sreenivasan/CNET)

Readers: This ever happen to you or anyone you know? Post your thoughts in the comments below, please, or e-mail me or tweet me at @sree or #sreetips on Twitter.