What Makes You Retweet?

3 years ago

Sometimes people use Facebook like Twitter, not realizing that the two sites are utilized in two very different ways.  Twitter is the conversation you have with your seat mate and the people around you, waiting for a lecture to begin.  Facebook is like the professor getting up there and informing her students on a topic (in this case, the topic is your life) and asking questions of the audience.  Fine, so perhaps such a formal situation doesn't really work for the informality of Facebook, but a good guideline to the two sites is whether you want to have a conversation vs. you want to tell people something.

But just as we share differently on the two sites, we also approach reading/responding differently.  There are only a few, general reasons why people hit the "like" button:

  1. They actually like the status update.
  2. It's a way to say "been here, read that."
  3. The person is too lazy to leave a comment, or they don't really have anything to add.
  4. The person is reading on a mobile device, and it's too difficult to leave a comment.

So those are the general reasons why someone hits the "like" button.  But why we retweet is much more complicated.

Image: Rosaura Ochoa via Flickr

When a person hits the Facebook like button, that "liked" knowledge is between the original author and the liker.  When a person retweets on Twitter, that retweet goes out to all of their followers.  You can like hundreds of things per day, but if you retweet hundreds of things per day, your voice will get lost in the sea of other people talking for you.  Ever click over to see a new person's stream and notice that the vast majority of the screen is filled up with other people's words?  I don't follow the new person; I follow the people they're retweeting instead.

Retweeters are curators.  They're like museum staff finding the most interesting art to put up on the walls.

At the same time, a retweet tells me a lot about the retweeter.  Are retweets for common friends peppered in between their original tweets?  That may make me follow them in the same way that I'd probably pay more attention to a new person if I know the other people we share in common.  Are they retweeting updates for organizations I admire?  It may make me follow them because I think we're like-minded.

So what makes us hit retweet and send someone's words into our stream, sharing them with all of our followers?  Is it the brilliance of the comment?  The fact that they tweeted a link that we want to pass along too?  Because we want to help out the tweeter?  Because we want to help out our followers?  Because it's a lazy way to bookmark a tweet to find again in the future?

Why do you hit retweet?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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