Art of the Retweet

Retro-Refresh: This article, which originally appeared in 2009, was “revived” by recent interest. Nothing has been changed other than the addition of the overly-dramatic image above.

Listening to Guy Kawasaki is always a joy. Regardless of whether you agree with what he is saying or not, he is always both thought-provoking and entertaining. The Alltop co-founder is a living legend in the world of social media and startups and is a must-follow on Twitter for budding online marketing professionals.

During a recent speaking engagement in San Diego, Kawasaki had his normal flurry of quirky, intuitive pieces of advice that struck home with most in the audience. One thing in particular he noted was that “today, a retweet is the sincerest form of flattery.” While I often take retweets for granted with a relatively large Twitter following for a non-celebrity, this one comment made an impact on me.

Since it was less than 140 characters, I naturally tweeted the statement and was surprised by the response. First, it was retweeted 25+ times – nothing too surprising there. What was surprising was that in watching the accounts that retweeted it. They started retweeting… a lot.

Retweet Me

Twitter has been a whirlwind of change when you look at the trends within the community. Celebrities, for better or for worse, have “invaded” this little corner of the Internet and made it as mainstream as a website can be. News sources refer to it. Marketers of all levels from the amateur MLM promoter to the likes of Kawasaki and Chris Brogan have embraced the wonderful potential that Twitter offers.  If you’re not on Twitter, you probably aren’t reading this blog post.

One thing that has been lost during this constant state of transition is the art of the retweet. Many users do it. In fact, there are those who do very little other than retweet.  I want to discuss the Why behind retweeting, but for those who need, here’s the…

…How to Retweet

The topic has been covered ad nauseum. Rather than rewrite the guide, here are some useful perspectives from blogs more astute than this one discussing how to retweet, how to get retweeted, and just about everything to do with the art of the retweet:

Now that you’re a pro retweetist, let’s get to the meat and potatoes.

Why Retweets Matter and Should Be Handled Properly

The genesis of this article was with Guy Kawasaki and his clever one-liner, but the message of this post is much more bland.  Retweets are essential to the continued success of Twitter. It isn’t just about retweeting me or Kawasaki or Shaq, either.

Retweets serve two major purposes. First, they are the primary method of getting important or interesting news out to the world. Whether there’s an earthquake in China or a celebrity death, retweets are necessary to spread news virally and get it in front of the right eyes. The idea that Twitter is still about “What are you doing?” is long gone. Twitter purists will say that I’m wrong, that the mundane aspects of life are what make the site interesting and conversational, but for Twitter to survive and thrive, it’s in retweets and spreading of buzz that the future of the site is golden.

Perhaps more importantly, the retweet keeps others interested. As Guy noted, getting retweeted is flattering. People enjoy being able to see that others found what they posted interesting enough to share it with their followers.  If Nielsen is to be trusted, 60% of U.S. Twitter users stay for less than a month. If it were possible to examine the habits and streams of those who leave, I would venture a guess that they weren’t getting retweeted often. Maybe they didn’t say anything interesting enough. Perhaps they didn’t make enough friends. Regardless of why, they left.

The number of quitters would be reduced if those of us who are actively engaged with the site would retweet more often.  It’s that simple.

If you love Twitter as I do, please start retweeting more. It isn’t hard. Most apps have a 1 or 2 click way to retweet. It’s too easy to do and the benefits for the site (and therefore the users) are high if we can help to retain those that give Twitter a shot.

Some things you can do:

  • Watch your general stream. Even if you follow tens of thousands of people, it isn’t difficult to watch the general stream and pick out the occasional gem that pops up. You’ll be surprised – there really are masterful 140-character-moments hidden within the noise.
  • Search and retweet on the topic of your choice. If you have something to say about a hot topic like #IranElections, chances are someone else has already expressed your sentiments. Find them, retweet them, and add your own flare if you want with the remaining characters.
  • Most stories from popular blogs have already been tweeted by the time you’re read them. The easy temptation is to click the Tweetmeme or Tweet This button. Instead, copy the headline and paste it into Twitter search. You won’t just find someone to retweet – you may find someone new with common interests to follow.

It’s up to you. Retweeting is an important aspect of Twitter. Not everyone is into it, but if you are, it’s time to step up your game.

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Read more about Twitter Marketing on this blog.
Image courtesy of Social Shirt.
File Upload courtesy of Tweetafile.

Written by JD Rucker
+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.