Retweeting: A Matter of Style

I have retweeted (RT) many worthy tweets, and what I considered worthy varied greatly: literary and humorous quotes; news articles; #FollowFriday recommendations; Twitter Tips; “Top” lists of various sizes (usually 10); and Twitter Tips, among many others. Given the nature of Twitter “standards”, which are set in sand at high tide rather than stone, I have concluded that there is no right or wrong way to retweet.

Twitter: Is there a right or wrong way to retweet a tweet?  Twitter applications such as HootSuite and Seesmic have RT functions based on how people retweet.  How do YOU retweet?  It's up to you.As an example, I will take a tweet from @TweetSmarter and show you the number of ways I would find myself retweeting it. If you want to read the original tweet, click here.

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I

If I retweeted that through my web browser or my cell phone, it would look like this:

RT @TweetSmarter How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I

I would type out the entire tweet and, as a result, forget the colon (:) after @TweetSmarter. Using the retweet function in HootSuite or Seesmic, where the colon is duly added, the retweet would look like this:

RT @TweetSmarter: How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I

Some Tweeps are very conscious of making sure that the original headline remains in front of the tweet. Therefore, the retweet would look like this:

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I RT @TweetSmarter

The tweet, as of this writing, has been retweeted nine times (albeit through Twitter’s Retweet link on its web interface). When many people retweet a tweet many times over, it looks something like this:

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I RT @TweetSmarter @SarahJL @QuantumGood @TwitterHelper

I have read the ongoing debate about the usefulness of “via“. I have seen via used a number of ways. One of my followers, it seems, refuses to use RT at all, so their retweets would look something like this:

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I /via @TweetSmarter

Other users use RT for unique tweets, as shown earlier, and “via” when retweeting a popular tweet. Their retweets would look this this:

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I /via @TweetSmarter @SarahJL @QuantumGood @TwitterHelper

I consider using “via” in the event that I come across a tweet that has been retweeted multiple times, as well. However, I would still use RT for the user from whom I received the tweet directly. Therefore, my retweet would look like this:

How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I RT @TweetSmarter /via @SarahJL @QuantumGood @TwitterHelper

Ironically, my first encounter with Twitter was at Barnes and Noble, the brick-and-mortar bookstore, where I read all about it. One of the books described the use of “via” as a way of dealing with a multi-generation retweet as shown above. However, “via” can also be used to cite offline sources such as out-of-print books, non-digitized resources, and people who are not on Twitter. The following examples are hyperbolic in nature, but please bear with me:

The debate of the best way to retweet will go on, but what matters most is that you find a retweet style with which you are most comfortable.

***EDIT***

Since the time of this writing, a few more ways to retweet have emerged.  For example, when you place the cursor over a tweet, you will see the following options at the upper right corner:

Is there a right or wrong way to retweet a tweet?  Twitter applications such as HootSuite and Seesmic have RT functions based on how people retweet.  How do YOU retweet?  It's up to you.

When you click on the Retweet link, you will get a confirmation window asking if you would like to retweet to your followers.  When you click on the Retweet button, the tweet on that user’s personal and public timeline will look like this.  Notice the green arrow at the upper right corner and that the blue Retweet link has changed to a green Retweeted link:

Is there a right or wrong way to retweet a tweet?  Twitter applications such as HootSuite and Seesmic have RT functions based on how people retweet.  How do YOU retweet?  It's up to you.

For years, the design and usage of Twitter was shaped by we, the users, but over time, Twitter decided to make it easier for newer users to retweet a user’s tweet.  While I certainly use the built-in retweet function as a matter of convenience, I still prefer using the older methods outlined earlier in this blog since it allows me to share retweet credit, especially of a tweet that was popular or highly retweeted.

Speaking of older forms of retweeting, I have seen a twist these types of RTs, typically from mobile phone Twitter clients:

@TweetSmarter Why Is Pinterest So Addictive? [INFOGRAPHIC] http://on.mash.to/GJCYC8

RT @TweetSmarter Why Is Pinterest So Addictive? [INFOGRAPHIC] http://on.mash.to/GJCYC8

“RT @TweetSmarter: Why Is Pinterest So Addictive? [INFOGRAPHIC] http://on.mash.to/GJCYC8

In the first example, the Twitter client has encapsulated @TweetSmarter and the original tweet in “smart quotes”; the second tweet encapsulates the RT at the very beginning, sans colon (:); and the third tweet includes the (:) after the username.  I can see how the use of quotation marks help make very explicit the contents of the original tweet, especially if a tweet is cited in an academic paper.  Furthermore, any comments, remarks, or replies would be made outside the quoted tweet.  I highly recommend this form of retweeting as it mimics printed language.

The final method of retweeting that I have come across is a retweet of sorts.  While I have not used it very much, it has been around for some time.  It is called the “modified tweet”, or MT for short.  I have seen tweets labeled as such and it typically happens when a tweet is almost 140 characters in length but the addition of, say, RT @username, causes the tweet to exceed the limit.  Should a person endeavor to make the tweet shorter with shortcuts (e.g. change “late” to “l8″, “to” or “too” to “2″, etc), the resulting retweet is, character for character, not the same tweet anymore although, when read, it is the same as the original tweet in content, context, and meaning.  Let’s take a look at the following tweet (this is the original):

Interesting to hear how @WSJ taps into different demographics by leveraging platforms such as #pinterest #instagram & #YouTube #bdi1

The original tweet had eight characters to spare. When I tried to retweet it:

RT @socialmedia2day: Interesting to hear how @WSJ taps into different demographics by leveraging platforms such as #pinterest #instagram & #YouTube #bdi1

I went over by 13 characters.  I went to the website, 140it, which “makes your tweet less than 140 characters” but, unfortunately, it managed to shrink the tweet by just two characters:

MT @socialmedia2day: Interesting 2 hear how @WSJ taps in2 different demographics by leveraging platforms such as #pinterest #instagram & #YouTube #bdi1S

It is worth mentioning that any tweet you shrink down, manually or by a website, will turn any tweet into a modified tweet, and the previous example would count as an MT.  Despite using the website, however, the MT was still 151 characters in length.  In order to create a 140-character MT, this is what I did, without mercy:

MT @socialmedia2day: Intrstng 2 hear hw @WSJ taps in2 dffrnt dmografx by leveraging platforms such as #Pinterest #Instagram & #YouTube #bdi1

I believe I have seen a line drawn in the sand regarding how to retweet.  Users who have been on Twitter for a few years such as myself tend to retweet with the methods I outlined when I first published this blog in 2010, while newer users tend to use the built-in Retweet link.  However method you choose to retweet other users’ tweets, what you’re trying to achieve when you retweet is engaging that user, talking to and following them.  If they thank you for retweeting, reply in kind, because sooner or later, another user will retweet something you post, and thanking them for doing so will create a new chance to meet and engage new people.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Francis M. Unson

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7 Responses to “Retweeting: A Matter of Style”

  1. Ellen Beck Says:

    RT @FlowerBlossoms @Twitter_Tips: How to Surf the Web…Anonymously: http://j.mp/aD1m0I

    is how I would RT that if it came from you. I rarely use via. Don’t know why, just don’t.

    I also try NOT to use the retweet to all followers button if possible, that I find irritating when others do it altho it makes no sense as long as I was tweeting it anyway.

    Pretzel logic at it’s best :)

  2. Diane Baum Says:

    Enjoyed reading your comments on retweeting-Can’t tell you the number of times I have tried to retweet something perfectly and made a ton of errors…Oh well, I was the kid who flunked map coloring in 1st grade, cause I colored out of the lines.

    • Francis Unson Says:

      That was the point of my blog: there is no right or wrong way to retweet. As long as the following is in there somewhere, anywhere:

      RT @username: blah blah blah
      or
      blah blah blah /via @username

      we will understand that your tweet was actually a retweet. :)

  3. Twitter: How do you do #FollowFriday? « Flower Blossoms' Blog Says:

    [...] retweeting, there is no right or wrong way to participate in FollowFriday.  Many people place a #FF or [...]

  4. Twitter: How to add more followers… gradually « Flower Blossoms' Blog Says:

    [...] a new tweet using RT or “via” (I outlined different ways to retweet in a previous blog), making sure to post the username of the person who originally tweeted the [...]

  5. Tash Hughes (@TashWord) Says:

    So many ways to do do the same thing :)

    I like to add a comment when I RT – it personalises it and gives it context – so I would usually go with

    comment RT @username original message

    Adding the comment at the end makes some sense for the reading but can confuse what is my comment and what is the original so I comment first.

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