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


Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective. I agree that the RT tends to limit conversation. Maybe this is why I like friendfeed better. Once read that Twitter is like a megaphone - good for shouting but not good for dialogue.

English Teach' said...

Actually, I started following you on twitter because someone had retweeted a post of yours :) Anyway, I agree retweeting is sometimes done to the detriment of conversation. Still, it is often useful because you find links/people you otherwise wouldn't have found (or would have found less easily).

Mona Bran (aka julianna07 on twitter)

Sandy Kendell said...

I hadn't thought of the RT as a conversation stopper. But I've been active on Twitter for all of a month or so and have learned a lot via RTs and shared many of them myself. I've had a couple of Twitter "conversations" but find them challenging because I'm not a gal of few words. :-) I feel complimented when I'm retweeted and by the same token I'm complimenting someone else when I RT them.

RTs serve as a great resource for me, because I can't subscribe to everyone without feeling overwhelmed. When someone takes time to RT, it acts as a signal for me to take a moment and look at that resource or comment.

Hopefully driving Twitter folk to blogs like this one can encourage the conversation.

Thanks for the food for thought. By the way, I just retweeted your Tweet about this blog post! ;-)

Angela Stockman said...

I agree with Shea and appreciate your perspective, Liz. I'm planning to change up my own online practices this year and plan to blog about that soon. Bud Hunt posted some relevant reflections about Twitter and blogging recently as well, and the two of you are helping me think and prioritize differently as I begin a new school year. Thanks!

Alastair Creelman said...

Interesting thoughts in this discussion that I hadn't considered before. I retweet a lot and see it as a way of passing on important information. I haven't really found Twitter very useful for conversations. Much better to discuss in a blog or synchronously on Skype.

Sue said...

An interesting post, which made me stop and pause for thought.

One of the problems I find with holding conversations on Twitter is that many of the people in my PLN are scattered all over the world in different time zones. A lot of the time, I find myself reading what they've posted when they are offline, and vise versa.

Like Sandy, I also find squeezing what I have to say into 140 characters difficult.

Having said that, I am inclined to agree with you that perhaps we ought to take time out more often to pause and interact with people who share stuff we find interesting, rather than simply retweeting it and passing it on.

I came here via your original Tweet rather than a RT, and I've retweeted your Tweet on the way out! ;-)