Twitter Fundamentals: Two Ways to Retweet

Which do you prefer?

Get more from your software.I spent most of this past week writing a new script for my Twitter Essential Training course on Lynda.com. We update the course about once a year to account for changes in the Twitter.com interface, as well as new features. This will be the fourth edition of the course.

Yesterday, I wrote about retweeting. I faced a minor dilemma: Do I cover both ways to retweet — with the Retweet button and with the old-style RT shorthand? Or do I just cover the Retweet button, which I personally prefer?

Understand that retweeting is something that developed on its own long ago. A Twitter user would see a tweet he wanted to share. He’d copy and paste the tweet into a new tweet, including the characters RT to indicate that it was a retweet and an @mention of the person who he was retweeting. Because this added characters to the original tweet, editing was often necessary. Each time it was retweeted, more editing occurred. Sometimes editing completely removed the @mention of the originator of the tweet, thus removing credit for the tweet.

Then, a few years ago, the folks at Twitter created an “official” Retweet feature. They added a button available for each tweet that copied the entire tweet and placed it in the retweeter’s timeline with the source tweeter’s name and profile picture still attached. This made it very clear who was the source of the original tweet. It also prevented tweets from being edited into nonsense by forced abbreviations. It made it possible to keep track of who was retweeting good content. And it prevented the same tweet from appearing multiple times in the timelines of groups of people who follow each other.

In my mind, it was a win-win.

So I decided not to include instructions for the old-style retweeting in my revised course. I mentioned it, of course, and showed an example, but I didn’t show how to do it.

Fast forward to this morning. I check my Twitter stream and discover a perfect example of how a tweet can be degraded by multiple old-style retweets.

Here’s my original tweet:

(And yes, that first word is a typo. It should have been “Ah.” Damn you, autocorrect!)

Note that there’s one (at least right now) official retweet. (You can see this if you click the date in the tweet embedded above to view it on Twitter.com.) That means that one person has used the Retweet button to copy my tweet to his timeline. On his Twitter profile page, it looks like this:

A Retweet

Note that although my profile picture and name are attached to the tweet, his name appears at the bottom as the retweeter.

Now look at two old-style retweets. The first is from someone who follows me:

The second is from someone who follows her:

In order to keep her account and my account in the tweet, he had to edit the hell out of it, to the point where the second “RT” is just “R” and the bulk of the post title is removed. Huh?

Do you think this is right? Effective? Acceptable?

Why couldn’t either one of them simply use the Retweet button?

Most people who don’t like the Retweet button complain that it prevents them from including a comment with the retweet. But do you think an emoticon smiley face is a comment? The original tweet says it’s “too funny.” Does a smiley face add anything to it?

And what of the second retweet? There’s no comment added there at all. In fact, the first retweeter’s comment is removed.

So why?

Is it because they wanted their account names attached to the tweet? That’s the only reason I see.

And I’m left wondering if anyone else retweeted it but removed my account name because it didn’t fit.

The truth of the matter is, the Retweet button isn’t only a better way to retweet. It’s also an easier way. One or two clicks and it’s done. No copy and paste, no editing required. The tweet is shared in its entirety, the originator is given credit, the retweeter’s name is still clearly indicated.

What do you think? Which method do you use and why?

3 thoughts on “Twitter Fundamentals: Two Ways to Retweet

  1. I’m glad that you explain both ways to retweet. I choose to protect my tweets, but not because there’s anything private in them, but because I don’t care to support spammers on Twitter. (see http://www.pcworld.com/article/220287/should_i_protect_my_tweets.html)

    I spend too much time each week answering people’s questions about whether it’s okay to retweet my tweets via RT and copy/paste. (The answer is yes, it’s fine with me if my tweets are retweeted this way.)

    Longer term, social media is going to be decentralized and much good will come of that. (see the second half of this recent blog post. http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/248707/when_metadata_comes_to_twitter.html)

    • Thanks for sharing this, Phil, but I think you’re missing the mark here. Your PC World articles tell people they can “reach” you on Twitter but when they follow the link, they see your tweets are protected. How exactly is that “reaching” you? How can you actively participate in social media if you protect your tweets so only the people who challenge that wall will ever see what you have to say there?

      I’ve been on Twitter for five years now and have posted nearly 40,000 tweets. The spam situation has never been bad enough — not even close! — for me to even consider protecting my tweets. And with Twitter’s recent lawsuits against spam enablers — you did read about that, didn’t you? — spam has virtually dried up overnight on Twitter.

      You’re clearly trying to have a public presence — why else would you link to two of your blog posts in your comments here? But I think you fail in a big way when you get on Twitter and then lock yourself up in some sort of ivory tower there, expecting your fans to go the extra step to get your permission to see what you have to say. Maybe they do. But when I want to follow someone I don’t already know and find his tweets protected, I take that to mean he doesn’t want to be bothered by people he doesn’t know and I give up right there.

      I guess it’s time for a blog post about protecting tweets.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It should be interesting to see how much mileage you get out of the two links above.

  2. “Most people who don’t like the Retweet button complain that it prevents them from including a comment with the retweet.” I am of the camp who prefers the old-style RT method precisely because of this. I simply want to edit, append, or modify a quoted tweet. The most important reason being this: to append a hash tag onto it so that others in a group or at an event, with whom I am not already connected, may see it.

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