Please Retweet This

In life on Twitter, it’s virtually impossible to move far into one’s career without being asked to retweet (RT) something. Almost every single one of us have asked for and have been asked to RT for a fellow marketer, friend, or simply a follower. But as time passes, more and more influence formulas are tied to RTs as a metric. This impacts the value of receiving RTs, both positively and negatively.

There seems to be people who will ask for a RT on just about anything they do. Given the lack of capital that is involved in kicking out a RT these days, does it mean anything? If many fans blindly RT as sign of support for their favorite voices, how seriously should we consider RTs? And what are the ethics involved in asking for retweets given the influence metrics?

Well, there’s no real ethics involved at all, unless you are getting paid to RT. In that case disclosure needs to happen. Still, one school of thought believes it’s OK to ask as much as you’d like, and another believes RTs should be primarily earned unless there’s a special nonprofit or personal initiative involved.

If asking for RTs is necessary to get an initiative going, is it because the content or news isn’t good enough to take off on its own? If strength of community exists before anything starts, simply publishing that information and providing it to stakeholders in communities of interest should be enough. This is the ideal. Consider this: If the initiative isn’t good enough then why send it out to the network for help? Is it right to cheapen the pipes with a concept that a core community isn’t interested in?

Others may argue that’s nice in an ideal world, but what if someone’s network isn’t strong enough to get the content out there? Strength of community doesn’t exist, thus requiring pitching. It seems like a fair analogy, a lower stakes game of pitching to influencers for play. Fair enough, but if one has to rely on influencers every single time they have a great blog post, a worthy business announcement, a good cause…

It might be worthwhile to invest in the hard day to day grind of building relationships within your community of interest. This is the core purpose of social media anyway; to develop meaningful relationships that benefit all parties. Lest you turn into the neighbor who comes over to borrow an egg or a rake every single day.

Ultimately, earned RTs — where people are so compelled by the subject matter — should be the goal. This is the act that matters, a sign of worthy content. The rest is saving face, compensation for weak community, a bit cheap, and a notch for an influence score or client report. Unfortunately, the general trend drags down the whole value of a RT in the stream.

Conversely, Twitter members retweeting others need to decide what’s right or wrong for them. If being known for reliable good information matters, so does a discerning eye.

What do you think about retweeting?

    • Anonymous

      That’s an interesting start. How about when work requires you to RT. Or when you want to RT to pay a compliment? I think the chart could add some real life relational pressures to it. Thanks for sharing this!

      • Ah yes, that’s where the boundaries fade away and the “family-colleague-relations” start to blend in. I must admit from a personal PoV that “mutual backrubbing considerations” certainly play a role there, and “segregation” plays an important part

        A good tweet from someone I’m not supposed to like, because he’s in the other camp? That’ll make me unlikely to “professionally RT”
        A not-so-good tweet from someone “on my side”, certainly when he’s next to or up the ladder? I’ll be inclined to “professionally RT”

        A tweet I wouldn’t RT but he’s from someone who just paid me a favour? I’ll probably RT

        Not much difference from IRL, I think. I’m really glad I’m just me out here!

        • First, loved the chart. Second you’ve highlighted why I split connections. Most of my family and friends aren’t on Twitter anyway, but you and Geoff are right about the payback aspect of it all. I’m shameless, will admit that I notice those who RT my stuff, so from time to time I don’t mind paying it forward with a RT of something worthy for them. Kinda like blog commenting, FWIW.

      • Anonymous

        I won’t tweet things that folks ask me to do because of network size at work. Will I tweet out an awesome story on the company, help a customer or pass along something that I think needs it, yes. But at the end of the day my Tweets are my own as is my FB, LinkedIn, YouTube, blog and overall voice.

  • Anonymous

    RT’ing for an initiative or for info that’s actually good or important is a nice thing. However, nowadays there is far more noise than signal in Twitter. Too many spammers asking for RT’s and “friend me on Facebook” that, for me, the value of Twitter is going down immesely. Further, I have noticed that many people are no longer responding to DMs–even when the DM contains an earnest question or request to connect further. I’m beginning to think that Twitter is now all about self-promotion and nol onger aobut making connections nor sharing significant or important information

    • Anonymous

      The signal to noise ratio on Twitter continues to dim, no question about it. I think we are seeing why Facebook’s anti-business approaches are making its network stronger — in spite of the privacy issues. Twitter on the other hand, let itself become the wild west, and well there are many characters out there now. ;)

      • Anonymous

        hashtags were supposed to help signal to noise, but the egregious use of hastags for every little oddball thing isn’t helping. I don’t know why people believe that putting hashtags for personal idiosyncracies will help them. Or do they just think it’s cool? I have no idea.

      • Anonymous

        I am with you on that, but would also argue that the lack of business model persay on Twitter’s hand also plays into this.

        A stronger SPAM solution would also be cool and something to nab those bots as well.

  • I will RT if it’s something interesting or beneficial or if I have liked other things that person has said/done. I don’t usually RT because someone asks and almost never RT to help someone get more followers: then it is just noise I am inflicting upon others. If you want me to follow or RT, you gotta inspire me.

    • Anonymous

      And that makes your RTs that much more valuable. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Good on you!

  • Everyone has his/her thoughts on retweeting. Personally I do it for valuable content, but I do get DMs from friends to spread the word on their latest blog posts or to support a particular causes all the time. I don’t mind supporting them in those instances. Where it gets annoying is if it’s continuous and not reciprocated at some point, although I don’t usually ask anyone to RT me unless it’s important, and even if it is, I feel funny asking (but that’s just me). I have friends who spam me right now with email that I don’t even read. At some point, I will probably unsubscribe. Nothing personal.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I am getting less and less likely to respond to requests, though I find myself doing it at least a few times a week. I say no now when I don’t think readers will find it to be relevant, which is somewhat frequent. I think relevancy is the key.

  • Lewis Green651

    If one has to ask for their info to be RTed, the message I get is that the Tweet must not be very good and the sender knows it.

    • Completely not true.

      • Anonymous

        I’m with Lewis on this one.

        • Geoff, while I’m fine with the assumption you both make that “tweet” isn’t that good, the comment “and the sender knows it” is BS. I’ve asked you to RT blog posts because I thought they WERE good. And frankly, if you didn’t, then you shouldn’t have RT’d them… and that’s your issue, not mine for asking.

        • By that logic, your blog shouldn’t have a RSS feed since people would read this blog by bookmarking it in their browser. You’re asking people to read your blog by subscribing to its RSS feed.

          • There’s a big difference between providing sharing options on your blog, and going out and soliciting retweets. Don’t mix apples and oranges.

  • Full disclosure, I have asked people to RT blog posts, even Geoff. That said, I haven’t asked every time, and if my ask didn’t clearly say it, I would hope you would only RT if you found interesting enough to–not simply because I asked. All that said, I think there’s a lot of assumptions in this post and you’re missing a few points… 1) To simply be heard through all the noise. There’s a lot of traffic on Twitter and to simply be seen is often hit or miss, and getting more people to post, or RT, increases the number of people who will see it. 2) I often ask people to RT who have more influence in a community than I. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I admire your work, hope that you’ll appreciate my post enough to pass it along to your network, and in turn I get to build my “influence.” It’s a recommendation and no one’s “influense” is built alone. 3) Finally, you say “worthwhile to invest in the hard day to day grind of building relationships within your community of interest.” Well, one of the ways you do that is by #2, getting introduced to more people in said community by leaders of said community.

    All that said, I see nothing wrong with asking someone to RT–on occassion. If you don’t want to, don’t. La ti da.

    • Anonymous

      Uh huh. Nothing wrong with asking on occasion is a fair response. But you are wrong on 3. You build relationships so you don’t have to ask people to RT. They do it of there own accord.

      • I agree that people should RT on their own accord, and how do I ensure that you notice the post and even consider RTing it if you deem worthy? Ask. Granted… maybe the ask should be that you check it out, give feedback and thoughts, and not RT it, allowing you to decide whether or not it’s worthy of your support.

      • Your blog’s retweet button is another way people can retweet your blog article without having any relationship built with that person.

  • You’re making an “earned” vs. “paid” distinction, but I think a better metaphor is “organic” vs. “paid”, or perhaps more appropriately, the “owned” vs. “earned” vs. “paid” metaphor.

    All of us have done it, of course, though its effectiveness has dramatically dwindled over the past two years. The signal to noise ratio is worsening at the same time that use of filters is increasing (notice I didn’t say they’re getting better).

    I would disagree that just because RT “favors” were called in, that the news isn’t good enough. Any good WOM/social media practitioner knows that campaign success is in good part determined by its seeding — if the seeding isn’t strong enough, it will peter out quickly.

    Also, I won’t RT just anything — it’s got to pass muster with me, even if @chrisbrogan or @pistachio are the ones calling in the favor.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a fair statement on seeding. I rarely seed for myself, but periodically recommend it to clients. Thanks for the distinction.

  • Personally, I will only RT information that is informative and will not put my online credibility in jeopardy. We are all trying to be considered credible with our information, so why continually “parrot” someone else’s thoughts? I think that if a message is important enough, then by all means RT, but don’t just do it because…..

    • It’s an interesting balance between peer pressure and independence. The social network arm wrench can be persuasive, but yes, I agree with you. It gets back to the content.

  • Geoff, I don’t think I’ve ever asked for a RT, being of the “it’s better earned” mindset. If it’s really good or for a worthy cause I don’t mind being asked. Most requests are self-serving of someone’s latest blog list on whatever, nothing as earth shaking as the goings on at Apple or what someone wore on the red carpet the other night. ;-) I am about the discriminating eye, making sure my tweets and RTs are worth reading or sharing, represent me.. Be a disservice to my followers not to.

    • What a waste of time. Dude, can you hit this list? I really think people would be better off thinking about it. I have done this, asked for RTs, but only when it’s really important. I see them as highly annoying asks, so I really try to not do this as much as possible. Maybe it’s me.

      • Kinda what I was saying, you just said it better. Rare I don’t find the “ask” needy, self-serving when getting them, why I don’t ask.

  • Anonymous

    I like this post very much. I have to admit that I saw you tweet this link this morning and thought you were asking for the RT. Having just begun following you and not knowing you or your content very well, I did not immediately do it–esp since the call to RT usually turns me off. It wasn’t until I saw it pop up again (i think it was @nittygriddyblog) that I thought, hmm, what’s this about. I rarely ask for the RT, but as you’ve said, rely on relationships that I’m building or have built, as well as- and perhaps more importantly – the content I’m putting out there to do the tweeting (er, re-tweeting). Glad I stopped by and I will indeed Retweet this!

    • Yes, it’s worse than Retweet Bait, it’s a Retweet trap. You say, oh sure, I’ll click on it first though, then read it and say, “Ugh!” Thanks for coming by, Erica.

  • Hey Geoff,

    Ultimately, RTs are valuable and overvalued. They are valuable because when someone shares a link to the right audience, it serves as a content induction. That’s valuable.

    Unfortunately, when someone shares content that is less than or perhaps not suited for their audience, it can have a negative impact just as much as positive one. People don’t always think about this, but it’s true. This is also where the overvaluation comes into play. Not all RTs are created equal, and yet people score them as if they all have equal value.

    I’m not just considering the number of followers. I mean that someone could RT content to an audience directly opposed to the content. Form the perspective of the blogger, it’s a positive traffic spike. But, if they really knew what people thought about whatever it is that they wrote, they might feel differently, especially if it caused the new audience to have a negative impression.

    None of this is as cut and dry as some would have us to believe.

    All my best,
    Rich

    • Anonymous

      It’s true, and also there’s intent. Consider this post was written towards people who blindly retweet and ask for retweets. Was this post sucessful? I would probably say no. Why? Because the predominant traffic and commentary is from people who are against being asked for retweets.

      People that do the RT game really didn’t participate or embrace this post. They did not “Retweet it.” At best, the high amount of comments and medium level of social network retweeting may put this in Google for the few who are researching their RT “strategy” and hopefully this will impact them. But again, did it work. Doubt it. Brutal truth.

      • That is a fair and seasoned assessment. However, if you really wanted to market to RTweeters, a better headline — “How to pull 1,000 RTs every time” or “How I climbed to the top of the RT ladder overnight” — would have dragged in that audience, assuming they are interested in reading content anyway. BTW, I love the dismantling of myth, which would otherwise strangle the communication value that social media does provide.

        • Anonymous

          Funny thing. It looks like the post took off after all…

  • I’m very careful with every tweet I send. I want to give people who listen to me reason to trust that what I say is usually worth listening to. It’s for my reputation, but also out of respect for their time. So if someone will ever ask me to tweet something that I don’t find useful, I really won’t know what to do.

    From the perspective of the writer, of course it’s tough when you’re starting out. Somehow you do need to make people aware of your stuff. But I think that using up re-tweet favors is a dead-end road, and the time spent asking for them, you can better invest in something that will continue to grow? When you already have a relationship with someone, and your topics are of interest to that person, I think asking for them to take a look at your blog may be okay. Once. And I think it’s important to leave it up to them if they want to read it, and if they want to respond and how. They need an open door to not do anything at all without having to be rude.

    Maybe I’m too careful both ways? I don’t have a huge track record of success yet, but it’s what feels right to me.

    • Anonymous

      You can only do what’s right for you, Dagi. Despite the leaning of the post, there is no right or wrong with this stuff. Like attracts like. It’s all about the type of person you want to interest.

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  • Joseph @ Apple Ipod Discount

    Asking to RT again and again is very annoying… if they want to RT you they will
    do it.. great blog!

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