Getting Started with Twitter: What's in a Retweet?

twitter-bird-white-on-blueIf used appropriately, retweets are one surefire way to earn respect and gain followers on Twitter.

What’s a Twitter Retweet?

A retweet is exactly what it sounds like, i.e. when you tweet somebody else’s tweet.
“Old school” retweets look like this:

This is my preferred method. Call me old-hat, unyielding to change, or simply hip (to be square), but it’s what I’ve grown up with in the vast five-year span I’ve been on Twitter. Don’t tread on my retweet sensibilities. As we learned in the bonus tip in Mentions and Direct Messages, since you’re placing characters before the other Twitter user’s name, this tweet will be publicly viewable.

If you retweet directly from (a retweet icon appears when you hover over a tweet), Twitter drops the “RT” and simply displays the tweet to others as if it’s from the person you’re retweeting. However, your name is included in small print at the bottom of the retweet.
Bonus tip: I use HT: @twittername (HT = hat tip) as a way to signal where I may have picked up a piece of information that isn’t a direct retweet.

Your Digital Endorsement

Consider retweets to be like giving two thumbs up to the person you’re retweeting. It’s your way of “giving props” to another person on Twitter and helping to expand their influence and ideas through your network. By building up a good rapport with those in your circles, you’ll earn the right to both talk about yourself sometimes as well as see them retweet your content. It’s customary to thank those who’ve retweeted you.
While I lag in retweeting with my personal account, I’m grateful to RT others via my work account. If there’s a great Kindle ebook for free for a limited time, an especially stirring or challenging blogpost, an hilarious anecdote, a thoughtful quote, or some other resource that I know our audience will appreciate, I’m all too eager to retweet.
One of the greatest benefits of Twitter is discoverability via trusted sources. Since you’re the one with ultimate control as to who you’re following, you have a strong, fairly personalized recommendation engine. Watching what others retweet can help you find great deals, new voices, and influential Twitterati. Retweeting quality links and quotes can help establish you as a knowledgeable source on a certain subject.
It’s a sometimes common practice to retweet the nice things people may say about you on Twitter. This happened to me recently:

I relayed my appreciation via a Twitter mention, and then I retweeted that tweet. However, I wrestled with whether or not to do so. I eventually relented and retweeted because his words encouraged me and provided evidence that I’m fulfilling my job requirements. On the other hand, (even though this was a rare occasion), I’m sure that if I constantly humblebragged, I’d lose followers in droves. In the same way that you don’t want to always talk about yourself on Twitter, you shouldn’t always allow others to talk about you either. What do you think about humblebragging via a retweet?
Lastly, even though I’ve read at least one article that stated otherwise, never ask for a retweet. If your content has legs to stand on, it’ll move through Twitter without begging.
If you use retweets effectively, you’re sure to earn more followers, especially if you’re consistent and provide a gateway to great Twitter users and their content.
Here are links to every post in the Getting Started with Twitter: 10 Steps to Twitter Competence series.