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Why Do You Retweet?

A friend passed a URL along to me this week with a research piece done by a Microsoft team last year on the science of retweeting. The trio of authors, Danah Boyd, Scott Golder and Gilad Lotan looked at 720,000 tweets over a six-month period and found that only 3% of the tweets "are likely to be retweets." The ambiguity comes from the way in which people retweet information--not all people preserve the original content, and the original authorship may or may not be present. Since I am one of the three percent, I enjoyed looking at the "why people retweet" section of the study. Why do you retweet? Maybe you'll see yourself in one of these groups:

1. To amplify or spread tweets to new audiences.
I don't do this as much as #2, but I do like to help spread good information I think is relevant to followers.

2. To entertain or inform a specific audience, or as an act of curation.
Curator should probably be my middle name. That is the second biggest reason I am on Twitter. The first? To grab all the new, good info I can find to get better at what I do. I am addicted to good information.

3. To comment on someone's tweet by retweeting and adding new content, often to begin a conversation.
I think this is directly related to #4 and I engage in this practice as well.

4. To make one's presence as a listener visible.
If I were making a personal observation here, I would add to make my presence as a "trusted" listener visible. How do you establish that? By retweeting info that helps make other people better.

5. To publicly agree with someone.
I'm not real political so I don't do this very often but find myself doing it with certain people like @AmberCadabra of Radian 6 who engages in some personal funny stuff once in a while. @LizStrauss is another one who brings this out in me. Twitter can't be all about business.

6. To validate others' thoughts.
There are smart people out there saying things and finding things much better than I can.

7. As an act of friendship, loyalty, or homage by drawing attention, sometimes via a retweet request.
Yes, yes and yes.

8. To recognize or refer to less popular people or less visible content.
I learned to do this from my daughter. She likes to draw attention to people that are not well known but know well. She is also good at inviting people to guest blog for her that have never written a blog before. That is a great way to lift people up and work at being a trust agent. But this needs to be genuine, not convoluted. @lizstrauss does this well.

9. For self-gain, either to gain followers or reciprocity from more visible participants.
Yes, I am probably ashamed to admit I do this. But, I will admit that I like to retweet engaging people. I'm not trying to build up my number of followers, just the quality.

10. To save tweets for future personal access
 To find a tweet later by searching myself? Hmmm--have to think that one through. Sounds a little odd to me.

Why do you retweet? Do you see yourself in one or more of the "whys" above?

Join The Conversation

  • Oct 5 Posted 5 years ago Idealgewicht (not verified)

    I retweet to share what I like. With retweeting I also risk my reputation, therefore I look closely at what I am retweeting so I am not making myself look bad out there...



  • Aug 2 Posted 6 years ago Chris Syme (not verified)

    I like this idea. I think there is some metric value in RT and seeing how it tracks with influencers. Not for the sake of conversation maybe, but for the sake of tracking influence maybe?

  • Jul 30 Posted 6 years ago jer (not verified)

    RT is like pressing the like button


  • Jul 30 Posted 6 years ago Joachim Niemeier (not verified)

    11. To find out which topic is of interest for others

    Something like small-scale market research.

  • Jul 25 Posted 6 years ago @Travelwriticus (not verified)

    Why do I retweet? Because I like the stuff I read, I would like my followers to read it too and I'd like to show the writer of the stuff I appreciate her/his work.

  • Jul 24 Posted 6 years ago Rebecca Lynn (not verified) Great insights in this article. I, of course, do #8 a lot. I don't have a ton of followers, but whenever I have a friend who is new to twitter or who writes a great blog but isn't well-known, I try to tweet it out and tell my opinion about the content. Of course, I only tweet t hings that I think are high quality. When I RT, I'm always thinking about my audience. Will my audience find this funny/interesting/worthwhile? Otherwise, I don't want to "spam" them.

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