Monday, September 7, 2009

The Power (and Peril) of the Retweet

Back in the olden days (2006 ;-) when I first started using Twitter, we didn't have the Retweet. If I liked something someone said or shared on Twitter, I would pass it along with a comment like "Check out @xxx's great post" or Thanks @xxx for sharing... or I might reply @xxx great point, but I think... Now if someone posts something interesting people "retweet" it by adding the letters "RT" before the persons @username and then their original post (preserved as well as possible). Click here to learn how to Retweet.

I have mixed feelings about the Retweet...

On the positive side, the Retweet spreads your message much farther than you could spread it yourself. I just recently blogged Ten Tips for Teaching Technology to Teachers and it was retweeted 42 times. My unique visitor count spiked to almost 400 unique visitors in one day (compared to 200 for my last post). And my post generated 25 comments. Clearly, the retweets helped to bring people to my blog (Thanks to everyone who took a look and took some time to comment). Retweets allow certain tweets to float to the top. My August post was not as strongly Retweeted and must not have resonated with as many people as my September writing. In the same way, when I follow my Twitter stream, retweets point me to posts by other bloggers which I might otherwise have missed.

The problem with the Retweet is that it sometimes stops the conversation. Rather than replying to what a person has tweeted, we simply pass it on. Rather than turning back to the person and replying, we turn away and repeat what they have said. While there is power in repeating, it does sometimes cut off interaction. I appreciate the passing on of my ideas, but I would also sometimes like to engage in a conversation, a back and forth that takes my idea a step further than I could have taken it myself. (Granted - the comments on my blog do continue the conversations.) Retweets are like a pat on the back. I appreciate the sentiment, but sometimes a hug is much more satisfying.

What do you think about the Retweet? Do you use it? Did you get to this post because of a retweet? Did you retweet this post to someone else? I look forward to reading your thoughts (here or on Twitter).

P.S. I just found this interesting analysis of the Retweet: Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter
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