Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Retweet As A Calling Card

Anyone who has followed me on twitter knows that my favorite form of communication is the retweet (or RT for short), sometimes with comment and often without. This is not just that being an introvert, I have little to say. It is actually intentional and planned as a firm believer in the aphorism, "On Twitter, Love is spelled RT."

For those of you not addicted to RTing as I am, let me explain this plan, so you can consider whether it is something you want to adopt also.

The primary purpose of a retweet is to share information. Always remember that. When you retweet something, you are taking that meme of information and reinforcing it. Therefore, the first rule in retweeting is to pick things to retweet you wish you had said.

However, thinking of retweets as sharing information can give you another clue as to what you should retweet. Pick items to retweet that you think people might not have seen otherwise. You probably have some people that you follow that most of your followers do not. In fact, unless you have a small tightly knit group of friends you tweet with, most of your followers probably don't follow all of each other. The exceptions to that are the top-ranked tweeters and celebrities you follow. You can expect that those people are generally followed by anyone who is interested in what they say.

When you think about that, that means you can pretty freely tweet anything written by some one with a thousand or fewer followers. You will probably be introducing those people to new potential followers.

On the other hand, retweeting everything that your favorite celebrity or news source tweets, even if you are adding comments, is probably not introducing your followers to something they don't know. Still, if you have someone like @techzader, you can also easily retweet them, as long as you are selective. The top tweeters generally put out lots of information and much of it goes by too fast for us ordinary mortals to follow. So, if you find an interesting tidbit or two from their stream, you can certainly retweet it and not worry about filling your stream with non-content.

Okay, now that we've established that you can retweet your unique people any time and the well-known people, when they say something that catches your attention. Let's look at this plan.

It starts by reviving an old tradition, "the calling card". Back in Victorian England one used to leave a calling card when one wanted to visit with someone. This was the precursor to the modern day business card. The point of the calling card was to catch the recipients attention and to introduce oneself.

One can use the RT the same way. It works because when you retweet someone, your mention of them gets directed to their attention. Most people, especially those whose business it is to tweet, keep track of when they are mentioned. Which probably means this technique will be less effective on celebrities, since they probably aren't tracking every time they get mentioned.

So, assume you would like to get to know some specific tweeter. One simply finds something interesting they are writing about--and if they aren't writing interesting stuff, why are you getting to know them? Now, that you found the interesting tweet, go ahead RT it, either with or without comment. If you are really brazen, follow up the RT with an @ message to them. However, even if you aren't feeling that bold, simply wait. Often when you RT something, someone has written, they will thank you for it. You can then reply to that. The exception here being if the tweet you are retweeting is something they they have retweeted from somewhere else, you are more likely to get the thank you from the original author.

If the first retweet doesn't work, wait a day or two and try again. If repeated retweets don't work, don't continue to pursue the matter. There are people you won't reach no matter how hard you try. Better to concentrate your efforts elsewhere.

Note that you don't have to just retweet to get introduced. Calling cards were used for any time one wanted to visit. Retweets work the same way. If you want to reinforce the reason why you found the person interesting, or renew an acquaintance that is fading, retweeting another tweet is a perfectly acceptable way to do so.

In fact, if a person has an interesting stream, there is no reason not to retweet them regularly. If you make the right connections, that will become a reciprocal pleasure and both of your audiences will grow.

To see the effect of this, consider how you found this. Chances are that you read this because you follow my tweet stream which is almost entirely RTs. However, I don't worry about that, because I try to pick carefully what I retweet, by tracking that which interests me, with the hope that others will also find it interesting. And, if you didn't find my stream directly, it is probably because the person who retweeted about this blog entry finds my stream interesting. So, it's all good.


  1. I RT a lot as well. I try to leave comments on about 1 in 5 things that I'm RTing, so it's not all just about forwarding things on. And, I also try not to RT something that I haven't actually read -- although there's a few people that I'll automatically RT even before reading.

    I also like your idea of RTing things that people may not have seen. It's one of the reasons why I rarely RT something from Mashable. I'd rather RT something with less than 10 RTs than something with several hundred.

  2. Yes, I definitely agree on reading before the RT. Even people I really like and trust can sometimes make a typo in a link, and with all the malware out there you can't be too careful.

    It does make the RT process go slower. Some days I get frustrated when I can't read stuff fast enough and the tweet to the link I was reading scrolls off my tweetdeck screen. If I'm lucky I can remember who it was and track down the tweet by hand. Other times, I've just lost it.

    Still, reading the links first is a definite thing for me, because if it wasn't worth reading, it definitely isn't worth RTing. It also keys me in to when I've covered a topic enough. When I'm tired of reading stuff on a topic, I figure that so it anyone reading what I track. To be honest, probably they were tired of it long before and are skipping that stuff from me, so when I'm tired of a topic it is definitely time to quit.

    In any case, I'm happy to meeting a fellow RTer. The 140 step recovery program meets on Thursdays at the Lodge....