Day 6 of Twitter – Retweeting

You’ve send a few tweets over the last five days – hopefully you’ve found plenty in your everyday routine as a scientist which would be of interest to others, whether they are your peers, other professions such as industry, policy, journalism or publishing, or to the general public.

But it really would be hard work to generate all the material yourself to feed your followers with regular, interesting tweets! Fortunately, you don’t have to – you can retweet the tweets of others. By doing this, you’re performing a valuable service:

  • to your followers, by sifting the stream of information available to them, filtering out what’s potentially interesting to them, and also by making them aware of potential new contacts they can add to their network. They may already follow the person you’ve retweeted, in which case you’re bringing their attention to something they may have missed the first time. They may not yet follow the original tweeter, in which case, you’ve made available to them information they may not have had access to, and given them a new contact to follow.
  • to the people you follow, by amplifying their message and spreading it outside their network (and also possibly putting them in touch with new contacts)
  • and of course, you‘re displaying to others that you’re well connected to interesting and important people, and that you are a discerning judge of what information is interesting and significant!

To retweet a message, you simply click on the ‘retweet’ button which appears below each tweet when you hover over it.

retweet button

The message will then appear in your followers’ twitter streams as if it appeared from the original sender, even though they may not follow them (although they might!). The tweet that they see will be marked with ‘retweeted by @yourname’ in small lettering, so if they look, they can tell that it was you who retweeted it.

retweeted by

However, as with sending @messages, if you simply use Twitter’s ‘retweet’ button, you’re missing out on retweeting in the most effective way. The etiquette around retweeting is very much in sympathy with academic conventions of acknowledgement. You can quote the tweet – you can either copy and paste it into your tweet, or if you are using an app like ipad’s Twitter app, they give you the option to quote or just retweet. This makes the tweet come from your account, rather than the original sender, making it clear that it’s you who has chosen to pass this information on.

However, that would make it look as if you’re claiming that it’s your tweet. To clarify that you’re retweeting, the convention is to

  • start the tweet by adding a comment of your own, if you wish and if there is room! If you don’t add any comment, then your retweet may be ambiguous – are you endorsing the original tweet? Plus, it may add context, value and character for your followers if you add something of your own.
  • write RT (which stands for retweet) and then the original tweeter’s @name
  • copy their original tweet.

the result will look something like this:

STEM RT quote

So, to the original tweet, you’ll need to add RT and @name, and possibly quotation marks if you feel you need to clarify any further.  Of course, as you only have 140 characters, adding these will eat into the original message! You can, of course, cut out any part of the original tweet you feel is unnecessary, but to signal that you’ve done so, it’s polite to write MT (modified tweet) instead of RT.  This is all a good reason to keep your own tweets as short as possible and not use up all 140 characters, so your own tweets can be easily retweeted!

Remember that to use Twitter effectively to promote your own work, you need to update frequently with interesting content to gain a following, and you also need to reciprocate and promote the work of others. No one wants to read or retweet a Twitter feed which is just broadcasting announcements about itself!

So have a look at your twitter stream and see if you can find tweets you think your followers might be interested in – funding opportunities, calls for papers, an item of news, a new blog post or publication someone’s tweeted about, a comment you agree with…

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