cc licensed flickr photo shared by mikebaird

Twitter retweets are an interesting phenemona; another example of the informal communication started by users– to RT means more or less to forward another person’s tweet out to your own network. On one level it seems to be an action of acknowledgment, say, if I retweet something that Joan tweeted, I am saying what she tweeted is important.

Another level is the act creates amplification of ideas, and spreads it to different sub networks that usually extend beyond the range of the original.

People with a lot more analytical skills than me have been analyzing retweets- danah boyd shared a draft of a paper she co-authored with her Microsoft Research colleagues- Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter. Social and viral media “scientist” (his title) Dan Zarella has shared a lot of research on The Science of ReTweets and his work is recently featured in Fast Company. Reading this work, you can learn more about language, word choice, punctuation, time of day that makes one more “retweetable”.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Xavier Fargas

I’ve been my own casual (meaning I am not writing it down) observations, trying to get a sense of the patterns that tends to get me Retweeted (I consider one RT a major coup). First of all, being RT-ed is not my primary purpose when my fingers are poised above the “What are you doing?” box, but on the other hand, the affirmation you get is a huge boost, especially when it comes from people you don’t know.

I am not pretending to know The Top Ten Ways to Have More Retweets, so I pose this more as a question for people to respond via comment below. But some things I suggest make you “retweetable” include:

  • Links. Sharing a resource, a unique story, a funny photo all make a tweet much more RT-able if it includes a link. This gives people who follow you something worth sharing with others. Most of anything I get retweeted has a link. Unless you are naturally funny, interesing, etc, its going to take something rather special to get retweeted w/o a link. These can be something so outrageous, self depracting, or sometimes a humorous observation in the real world can strike a chord. Finding something original, or at least being outside mainstream helps too- don’t just be an echo monkey of TechCrunch or whatever.
  • Save space. If you are tweeting links, be sure your client does URL shortening, cause every letter counts extra here. Sparse down your words (drop prepositions, articles, etc)
  • Give Context I don;t see much chance of getting some RT if all you do is tweet “Interesting http://xxxxxxxx” or “Cool! http://xxxxxxxx”. Those who know you the most might follow your link lead out of trust, but without some context or reason to click, most people will leave this tweet behind. Again, try to pack something in that makes it jump out from the rest of the twitter flow- it is a headline, and if you want traction, you need to lead strong.
  • Skip the twoosh If someone is going to retweet you, they will need at least 3 characters plus the length of your twitter name; if I think I have something with legs, I try to leave 10+ unused characters (the counter side is that people will do interesting edits to chop a RT down to 140).

This is just a scattering of ideas- I am more curious as to what you think makes someone more re-tweetable, or what is it about a message that makes you reach for the RT button?

Or is it just vain to try and be more “retweetable”?
cc licensed flickr photo shared by C a f r i n e

Should that even be a factor in the messages you choose to toss out there? If it is for the chest puffing of boasting what your RT percentage is, than no, go back 20 spaces. But giving it some thought should help you focus a bit more, and think about what your tweets look like from the reader side.

The post "Retweetable" was originally assembled from spare parts of a 1957 Chevy at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2009/09/retweetable/) on September 28, 2009.

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