How to retweet (correctly)

One of the best features of Twitter is the ability to share what others are saying through the ReTweet feature.

Retweeting is an integral part of the Twitter experience, but it must be handled properly. Below are some of the most common questions I get about ReTweets and some tips on how to handle them.

What is a ReTweet?

Repeat a Twitter message, or Tweet, from another user. For example, if someone shares a thought or link that you think will be helpful to others in your immediate network, you can instantly share it with them.

The “RT” symbol starts a ReTweet. It is immediately followed by the identifier of the person who wrote it first.

Here is an example:

The original Tweet from @person:

Excellent resource for authors on book marketing!

Here’s the message, ReTweeted:

RT @person Excellent resource for authors on book marketing!

How can I retweet a message?

Twitter’s main site and third-party apps like TweetDeck offer one-click sharing. All you do is click the ReTweet button next to the message you want to share and the program automatically shares it with your network. You can also click the green TweetMeme button within blog posts to share them.

Sometimes, however, the ReTweet function does not work and you will have to do it manually. When this happens, you must copy and paste the original message in the status bar and add the “RT” and identifier of the person who first shared the thought.

Can I add my own thoughts to the retweeted message?

Yes. Add your own thoughts before the ReTweeted message. That way, readers will be able to differentiate between their thoughts and the original Tweet.

Here is an example using the above message:

Great site! RT @person Excellent resource for authors on book marketing!

You should never put your own thoughts after the ReTweeted message. Why? Because on the Twitterverse, that makes it seem like the author of the original post had that thought, not yourself.

Here is an example of an incorrect ReTweet:

RT @person Excellent resource for authors on book marketing! Yes, of course.

By adding the thought “Yes, sure” at the end of the Tweet, you change the meaning of the original message and attribute that meaning to the original author.

Can I rephrase a ReTweet that is longer than 140 characters?

Yes – within reason. Here are some tips on how to get it right:

Never take a Tweet out of context. Twitter users are attentive to your information and any user who takes your messages out of context will be blocked and booed. Some users will even post messages to their networks, asking others to block users who misquoted them. What does it mean to take a Twitter message out of context? If you rephrase a Tweet to insert your own opinion, or delete words to give the message a whole new meaning, you’re making a big misstep on Twitter.

Never change the link provided by the original user. In my life on Twitter, I have experienced some unscrupulous marketers who replaced my links with some of their own. That’s a big no-no and it will hit you for it.

Always attribute Tweets to the correct person. Never take a thought from one person’s message flow and attribute it to another. This is the same as misquoting in journalism. Twitter users are forgiving if you do it manually and forget a letter in an identifier. If this happens, simply resend the message to Twitter with the correct identifier.

Never make up a message and attribute it to someone else. I have experienced this only once; others many times. A new follower on my network wrote a message that made little sense and attributed it to me via ReTweet. The message was so far removed from everything I write, it couldn’t even come from a poorly worded Tweet. Fortunately, I have a dedicated Twitter network, and a brand presence on the site, so most of them knew it didn’t originate from me. However, I made sure others knew it wasn’t me and blocked the user.

Use standard online abbreviations to fit ReTweeted messages into 140 characters. The RT’s nightmare is keeping them within Twitter’s 140 character limit. You can easily wrap your messages by using acronyms, such as the letter “R” for “Son” or the letter “U” for “you.” Instead of spelling out the names of the states, you can use the two-letter postal abbreviations. Third-party applications like TweetDeck automatically resize messages to fit within the character limit.