I’m not one of those people who likes to go around saying, “This is the way I do it so this is how you should do it. Otherwise you’ll smell funny for 7 years.” Rather, I like to give my opinion, and if you want to debate the issue you are more than welcome.

Given that, I firmly believe that a lot of Twitterers need a retweeting intervention.

What on earth is retweeting?

OK, let me back up a moment and give a really quick background of what I’m talking about, just in case you are new to Twitter or aren’t on Twitter at all (in which case this post probably doesn’t hold a lot of interest for you, so thanks for making it this far!). So when you’re on Twitter and you see a tweet someone has made, you have 3 options. You can reply, which means you are talking to them. You can “favorite” the tweet, which is kind of like bookmarking it (this is for your use, but anyone can see your favorites). The third option is that you can “retweet” the tweet. This means that if you really like what the person is saying, you can click “retweet” so that another person’s tweet actually becomes yours. It’s like a Twitter version of quotation marks. This allows you to tell all of your followers, “Hey guys, check this funny/smart/sad/moving tweet.”

The One Click Method Versus The Cumbersome Method

If you do “retweeting” the way Twitter wants you to do it, it’s really easy. You just click “Retweet.” It’s like the “like” button on Facebook. Click click click. A lot of people, I think, view retweeting as a method of interaction, promotion, and/or engagement, so they retweet a lot and don’t have to do a whole lot more. So, someone’s profile could end up looking like this:


This is what you see a lot in profiles. Retweet after retweet. Sometimes it’s not even articles that people retweet. Sometimes you’ll see a profile where the person is retweeting other people retweeting them.

Is this methodology *wrong*? I can’t really say that. But here’s the thing. If your last 20 posts consist mostly of your own tweets and retweets that are simple echoings of what other people are saying, are you truly interacting with others? If you look at the tweets that the person above retweeted, most are about business and Social Media, and then one is about pigging out at Christmas. Why is that there? Did they think it was funny? It definitely doesn’t seem to fit in with other things. Why are they retweeting the other things there? Are these blog posts that are controversial? Are they really well written? I have no idea. For all I know, this account could belong to a spam bot that just retweets things every few minutes.

This brings me to the “cumbersome” method of retweeting. It involves adding a bit of a comment before or after what you’re posting that not only shows that you actually read or engaged with what you’re retweeting, but it also reveals something about you to your followers.

This can’t be done so far as I know with a simple click. The method I use is to copy a person’s tweet, leave my comment, put an RT @username and then paste their comment in. So it would look like this:

Now this retweet was a bit complex because I wasn’t the first person to see this fantastic post. @Kikolani saw it, my friend @pushingsocial then saw it from her stream, and I saw it from his. Instead of leaving a longer comment myself, I let @bbrian017 know that I thought it was a great post and that I saw it thanks to two people I respect a great deal. That’s a lot to say in a retweet – it lets the person I’m retweeting as well as my followers know a lot of information – about what I share, who I take recommendations from, and more.

When retweeting goes a bit over the top

Friday was one of the days that I was away more than usual from my Twitter and blogging world. When I checked on things late in the day, I saw that there were quite a few mentions of my name. In looking at things a bit more, I realized that the following had happened.

Someone did a “Follow Friday” post listing me and about 7 other people

Then, about 3-4 of the other folks retweeted the original #ff post (a couple did add a “TY” at the beginning)

I think 1 or 2 people then retweeted THOSE posts

This is where the easy access to retweeting becomes a bit of a hazard. Ask yourself, before you hit retweet, whether your followers really need to see this tweet. Actually, that’s probably good advice regardless of what you’re tweeting, but in any case, will your followers truly benefit from seeing lots of retweets of your follow Friday mentions? If someone says something nice about you, do you need to retweet that?

Here’s something I have learned on Twitter. If you say something to someone and people want to see the other side of the conversation, they can visit that other person’s profile and look. With that in mind, 99% of the time, I will not retweet a nice thing someone says about me. Rather, I’ll simply and genuinely say, “Thank you very much!” The only time I stray away from this is if someone does a blog post that mentions me, because I want to help them drive traffic to their site in that case. Even then, though, I don’t do the one-click retweet method. I usually write my own tweet and then put a link to their post in.

Another disadvantage to one-click retweeting

One other quick point I’d point out for those of you who are fans of metrics. When you tweet out a link, you are able to track how many people click that link most of the time. For example, I use bit.ly, and I can see how much traction those links get. If you simply retweet someone else’s tweet, you’re not getting your own trackable link. You’re just sending their link out.

Retweeting is a gift

I like to think of retweeting as a gift – it’s a way of telling someone that what they said was so great that you want to share it with all of your followers. You want to give up some of your platform to someone else. If you retweet people all of the time, it becomes less of a gift and more of a “ho hum” activity. No one will really feel special if you retweet them because you seem to retweet everybody. In my own case, I prefer to retweet by not really “retweting,” but rather by promoting. If someone does a great blog post, I’ll explain why I recommend reading it and then tweet a link out rather than just retweeting their own post about it. Again, this shows them that I took the time to read it and offer thoughts about it, and it also gives my followers more insight into why the heck I’m posting this information for them. Everybody wins.

How are you retweeting?

Does any of this resonate with you? How do you handle retweets right now? If you tend to hit the “retweet” button a lot, give the “cumbersome” method a try, and let me know how it works for you. And of course, as always, if you have any questions, just let me know!