The Rise of the Retweet with Pros and Cons

Greetings!  I’m Mark Micheau, manager of research and translation services at
It’s Wednesday already and today I’d like to share a really interesting article with you.
How much to you know about the world of Retweets?  Would you like to learn more?  Then I invite you to read on.
Have a great day.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
 The Rise of the Retweet with Pros and Cons

Retweeting is a phenomenon that has taken the Twitter world by storm. The concept began when somebody added the letters “RT” to somebody else’s tweet and posted it as their own. The idea caught on on a massive scale, and now there are services that utilize retweeting as the backdrop of their entire purposes. “Some of Twitter’s best features are emergent—people inventing simple but creative ways to share, discover, and communicate. One such convention is retweeting,” says Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone.
As a Twitter user, what is your opinion of the concept of retweeting?
Share with WebProNews readers.
Disclaimer: If you are not a Twitterer, you may be unfamiliar with the concept of retweeting. Basically, when someone updates their status on Twitter, that is called a tweet. When someone likes that status and wants to share it with others, they will at “RT” (for ReTweet) and the user’s name typically and post the same update. This is usually done with Tweets containing links, so naturally it provides a good, viral means of link exposure.
Tweetmeme has been around for a while, offering a service to content providers, where they can add a button onto an article page that lets a reader easily tweet a link to that article on Twitter. It then counts these tweets, which become retweets, just like similar buttons you’ve probably seen for Digg. The more retweets that are registered on that button, the more interesting the content looks at first glance. The reason for this is that theoretically, if a user sees the article has 2,000 tweets, as opposed to 2, they can assume that a lot of people found the article interesting or informative, and will be more likely to continue reading. It’s kind of like the concept behind comments. Articles that display a large amount of comments are likely to catch readers’ eyes for the same reason. The Huffington Post discussed this concept in a recent interview with WebProNews:
This week, a company called Mesiab Labs launched a service that is practically identical to Tweetmeme, at This company is combining the popularity of the concept with a powerful brand. The timing of this is interesting because Twitter recently announced it’s own retweeting plans in an initiative called ” Project Retweet,” which will presumably see a retweet button at (many consider this long overdue), and retweet functionality right in the Twitter API, opening up a lot more retweeting possibilities in third-party Twitter apps.
Sketch for Project Retweet
But back to why retweeting is useful to businesses. The attention grabbing effect of the retweet button on a piece of content is just one aspect. Another is of course, the promotion the content provider sees from a substantial amount of retweets. They’re viral by nature, and in the best-case scenario, they can drive a ton of traffic to the content.
Famed blogger Robert Scoble started an interesting discussion on FriendFeed about what is better between the retweet and the “like” feature on either Facebook or FriendFeed itself. While I’m not going to get into all of the reasons why one is better than the other, Scoble and other participants in the conversation made a number of good points bout the pros and cons of retweets. Let’s look at some of those.
– Retweets are viral
– Retweets show up as top-level items in FriendFeed
– As opposed to a Facebook “like,” a retweet is shared with everyone
– Retweets typically give credit to sources
– While giving credit to sources, retweets can lead to relationships
– Susbstantial amounts of retweets can say a lot about the quality of content
– Retweets can inspire further conversation
– Retweets can be good for branding
– Retweets can easily be shared across multiple networks, like Twitter, Friend, Facebook, etc.
– Retweets can provide followers with additional value in quality content
– It’s hard to provide a list of the things you’ve retweeted, as Scoble mentions. He mentions how people can see your “likes” on FriendFeed
– Retweeting creates what many people consider to be “noise” on Twitter
– Twitter’s 140 character limit
– Some people consider retweeting to be like copying other people’s work for your own gain, though this concept is heavily disputed
A recent study from Pear Analytics found that about 8.70% of the tweets it researched were retweets. In some of the more web-oriented circles, this probably even seems quite low. Without a doubt though, Twitterers are retweeting tweets like there’s no tomorrow. Obviously businesses can see value in this, especially if they provide some kind of content that they would like to see shared.
As always, it comes down to providing quality content – the old “content is king” cliché. Even as the web has evolved, that simple fact remains true. If you provide something interesting, people will share it.
Scoble’s whole “Retweet vs. Like” concept is an interesting one in itself. We have certainly seen Facebook make numerous changes to its interface that seem to move the network closer to the realm of Twitter. You have to wonder if Facebook will eventually incorporate some kind of retweet-like functionality itself.
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About Donna Jodhan

Donna Jodhan is an award winning blind author, advocate, sight loss coach, blogger, podcast commentator, and accessibility specialist.
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