On the proper use of the Twitter RT button
About a year ago, Twitter launched “Project Retweet,” a product they claimed would change the way users retweeted. It was received negatively by the general twitter public. Their reasons were varied, similar to every renew of the facebook design.
Properly used, however, this Retweet2.0 is possibly the best thing that has happened to twitter (since the basic service hasn’t really changed, ever). Except, no one in my timeline can seem to figure out how to use it properly.
"Old School" methods of retweeting have their purpose. When you find a link in your timeline that you want to pass on to your followers, and you want to include your own special note, RTing is the way to go. When you don’t like the phrasing of the brilliant-gem-of-a-tweet you just read, rephrase it and add (via @badspeller).
But if you’re just going to repost verbatim, “RT @” adds little to no value to the tweet, not to mention 4 expensive characters. For this purpose, hitting the Retweet button actually might be more beneficial to the original tweeter as well as your followers.
- Your followers gain the added value of context, knowing with a quick glance who exactly the original tweet was from (glancing at a twitter avatar is like reading a book by it’s cover).
- The original tweeter gets a) proper credit for the tweet; and b) better exposure on twitter. If their nugget was really as brilliant as you thought it was, chances are that some of your followers will feel the same way, thus hitting Retweet and passing the value on to their followers (with credit still owned by the original tweeter). How many more times can I write original tweeter without feeling ridiculous?
Fun and games aside, artists, businesses, and the general advertising world are the biggest abusers of the “new” retweet function - in the sense that they just don’t use it.
Twitter appears to be a fairly straightforward game. You type out a tweet, and hit send. Bam, your message is out there for millions (soon to be billions?) to see. But for big and small businesses alike, it can sometimes be easier to alienate your followers than it is to attract them. And recently, at least for me, the culprit has been improper retweeting.
Here’s an example
Now, for ease of use, I’m going to pick on my favorite local music venue (not that any of your reading this aren’t from Minneapolis, but still, the web is global) First Avenue. They recently opened a bar next door to the venue called The Depot and both entities rightly have separate twitter accounts.
Here’s where the retweet button works perfectly. I follow both (I love music, I love beer) twitter accounts. But they have a really bad habit of retweeting each other, as one business often influences the other (again, music + beer = good).
This is how their tweets appear in my timeline, and this is not a once in a while occurrence. This is an almost everyday occurrence.
How this can be fixed (and applied to other entities)
The main purpose for the Depot is to remind their twitter followers that they’re a great place to stop in for a drink before the show. And for First Avenue, a RT reminds their followers that The Depot exists, has beer, and is a great place to stop in for a drink before the show.
But I follow both, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And I don’t need to hear the same exact message twice. In fact in this case, it turns me off from heading to The Depot for a drink. Ultimately, it just seems like forceful advertising.
If @Firstavenue had just hit the Retweet button (do you see it up there? Right in between favorite and reply?) I would, since I follow them both, have only seen the message once. However, the followers of @firstavenue who do not follow @the_depot (and maybe weren’t even aware of it’s existence) would still have seen the tweet in their timeline with the added bonus of maintaining The Depot’s brand.
This effects how I read my tweets (and probably effects others in similar ways aka why anyone should care):
It may seem like a little thing, but it can make a huge difference. In another example, I follow many local artists, as well as their label’s twitter stream, their label execs’ stream, and other artists’ streams from the same label. When one of them has a show, releases an album, or tweets something clever, it often results in a massacre of RT’s - and I’m forced to read the same message 5 to 6 times.
This gets tiring, especially when it happens many times a day. I quickly begin to only glace, instead of actively reading, the tweets coming from the aforementioned tweeters. After a while, I tend to skip them all together, and as it continues to happen, I start to unfollow them.
With a proper Retweeting group strategy, I still would have seen the original tweet, and that fellow labelers retweeted it, but it wouldn’t clog up and create unwanted noise in my timeline.
Think on that for a while. And let me hear your response in the comments.
P.S. I realize that when tweeting for other entities, I myself have tweeted in inappropriate ways - mostly due to the use of Project Retweet incapable clients. I apologize. But when you think about the fact that 78% of twitter traffic comes directly from twitter.com, that’s hardly an excuse or something to ignore.