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The importance of the Twitter Retweet

Microsoft Research came out with some very interesting research looking specifically at the act of retweeting on Twitter. If you’d like to read the full paper it is available for download in PDF format. Note that the following Twitter pros were behind the research:

  • Danah Boyd, Microsoft Research, @zephoria
  • Scott Golder, Cornell / Microsoft Research, @redlog
  • Gilad Lota, Microsoft, @gilgul

The research is particularly interesting to me as the Twitter retweet is one of the most important ways to achieve value on Twitter and is often poorly used. While there are a number of reasons that people retweet, the ones that are most important:

  • While not specifically noted via their research, you should share great information as a way of helping your community while promoting your knowledge and awareness of certain topics.
  • Making your presence known to others. These people could be potential customers, business partners, or mentors.
  • As an act of friendship. You cannot succeed without the help of “friends”, help others, good Karma does exist in this world.

As part of their analysis they reviewed a random sample of 203,371 retweets from 107,116 unique users. They observed the following (these results quoted directly from their paper):

  • 18% of retweets contain a hashtag
  • 52% of retweets contain a URL
  • 11% of retweets contain an encapsulated retweet (RT @user1 RT @user2 …message..)
  • 9% of retweets contain an @reply that refers to the person retweeting the post Compared to the random sample of tweets, hashtag usage and linking areoverrepresented in retweets.

From a practical perspective I favor defining communication standards for your organization in regards to the use of retweets. Following a format like this has worked very well for me:

[Optional Kudos] RT [USER1] [USER2] … [Content] [Hashtags] | [Your thoughts]

  • Remove extraneous words and punctuation as needed, but never change the meaning of the original message.
  • Always give credit where credit is due. If the author of the content is missing from the original tweet try to add it to your retweet. I use the beginning of the retweet,the [Optional Kudos] piece, to give a shout-out to the author.
  • While hashtags are far from perfect use them. They help keep your message alive longer.
  • If useful, I try to add my comments to the end of the message, always following a pipe symbol (|). I insert this symbol to show the end of the original content and help readers understand my take on the content.
  • If possible, keep your retweet short so that others can retweet your message.

Standards are a great way of ensuring that your content supports your goals and that your community understands why you have chosen to share a piece of content with them. Help your community and help them help you. Everyone will win and that is key to everyone’s success.

John

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9 Comments

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Profile Photo Stephen Peteritas

Maybe I’m wired different but I tend to take retweets with a grain of salt. I prefer to see original tweets directly from that singular person I follow. Of course retweets are necessary and help but just saying I’m more likely to read a non retweet rather than a retweet.

Profile Photo Noel Carr

I agree about the importance of the Retweet. It gets back to the fundamental that when businesses/governments tweet, they should think of the medium as an inbound marketing tool first and “listen” before they “talk/tweet.”

They also create a sense of community, could help you gain more followers, and increase the chances of you getting retweets in the future.

Profile Photo Amy Adams

Those are good tips. I wish people who retweet me would follow them! I hate it when my hashtags or URLs get removed in the process of someone shortening my tweet.

I retweet a lot, for two reasons:

1) I let that person know I exist. This is a great way to get followers to a new twitter account.
2) I make someone happy. That happy person is more likely to retweet something of mine, helping me reach as many people as possible.

Seems like a good way to build goodwill and also reach as many people as possible.

Profile Photo Shannon Kennedy

These are great tips! I’m a huge fan of re-tweeting because I’ve seen the many benefits of doing so! I re-tweet anything from interesting news or stories posted by my friends, to breaking news, to sports updates (Usually if my beloved alma-mater gets a higher ranking in the polls!), to important events posted on Twitter. Thanks for this post!