You’ve send a few tweets over the last five lessons – hopefully you’ve found plenty in your everyday routine which would be of interest to others, whether they are your student colleagues, peers in your field, other professions within or beyond.
But it really would be hard work to generate all the material yourself to feed your followers with regular, interesting tweets! Fortunately, you don’t have to – you can retweet the tweets of others. It’s sort of like forwarding an email, but to everyone who’s following you. They see the content of the original tweet, who it came from originally, and perhaps also a contextualising comment from you. By doing this, you’re performing a valuable service:
- to your followers, by sifting the stream of information available to them, filtering out what’s potentially interesting to them, and also by making them aware of potential new contacts they can add to their network. They may already follow the person you’ve retweeted, in which case you’re bringing their attention to something they may have missed the first time. They may not yet follow the original tweeter, in which case, you’ve made available to them information they may not have had access to, and given them a new contact to follow.
- to the people you follow, by amplifying their message and spreading it outside their network (and also possibly putting them in touch with new contacts)
- and of course, you’re displaying to others that you’re well connected to interesting and important people, and that you are a discerning judge of what information is interesting and significant!
To retweet a message, you simply click on the ‘retweet’ button which appears below each tweet when you hover over it. Here’s a sample from my feed in late August:
The message will then appear in your followers’ twitter streams as if it appeared from the original sender, even though they may not follow them (although they might!). The tweet that they see will be marked with ‘retweeted by @yourname’ in small lettering, so if they look, they can tell that it was you who retweeted it.
However, as with sending @messages using ‘reply’, if you simply use Twitter’s ‘retweet’ button, you’re missing out on retweeting in the most effective way. The etiquette around retweeting is very much in sympathy with conventions of acknowledgement. You can quote the tweet – you can either copy and paste the text into your own tweet, or if you are using an app like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck (we’ll look at these later on!), they give you the option to quote and edit, or just retweet. This makes the tweet come from your account, rather than the original sender, making it clear that it’s you who has chosen to pass this information on.
However, that would make it look as if you’re claiming that it’s your tweet. To clarify that you’re retweeting, the convention is to
- start the tweet by adding a comment of your own, if you wish and if there is room! If you don’t add any comment, then your retweet may be ambiguous – are you endorsing the original tweet? Plus, it may add context, value and character for your followers if you add something of your own.
- write RT (which stands for retweet) and then the original tweeter’s @name
- copy and paste their original tweet.
the result will look something like this:
So, to the original tweet, you’ll need to add RT and @name, and possibly quotation marks if you feel you need to clarify any further. Of course, as you only have 140 characters, adding these will eat into the original message!
You can, of course, cut out any part of the original tweet you feel is unnecessary, or to make space for your own comment, but to signal that you’ve done so, it’s polite to write MT (modified tweet) instead of RT. This is all a good reason to keep your own tweets as short as possible and not use up all 140 characters, so your own tweets can be easily retweeted!
If you want to retweet just a URL link that someone has passed on rather than their comment, you can add ‘via @name’ or HT @name (HT stands for Hat Tip) to clarify that you found the source through them.
Another option to consider (and one that I’ve been using) is to hit the retweet button, and then add your own comment. The great thing about this is you can add your own content and get around the 140-character limit. It also enables you to maintain the integrity and context of the original Tweet. Here’s a sample of something I retweeted from Sam’s feed:
Remember that to use Twitter effectively to promote your own work, you need to update frequently with interesting content to gain a following, and you also need to reciprocate and promote the work of others. No one wants to read or retweet a Twitter feed which is just broadcasting announcements about itself!
Finally, if you want to reply to someone, but you want everyone to see the original tweet, you can retweet yourself.
Also, remember there should be variety. Nobody wants to see an endless stream of retweets either. It’s all about the mix and the conversation.
Bonus Idea: A Thread
If you’re looking to extend the abilities of Twitter with a longer “essay-like” Twitter thread, here are the instructions from the Twitter help pages on the subject:
So have a look at your twitter stream and see if you can find tweets you think your followers might be interested in – a digital tool, an item of news, a new blog post or publication someone’s tweeted about, a comment you agree with…and start retweeting! Advanced: make a thread!Day Seven