How to retweet and still sound like a human

Don’t just pass along a post or a link; enhance it with your own insights.

Don’t just pass along a post or a link; enhance it with your own insights

Imitation may be the best form of flattery—or it can be a sign of laziness.

I’ve written before about why it’s important to retweet other people’s posts on Twitter. Not only does it give credit where credit is due, it helps show you’re not a robot or RSS feed and that you’re reading what others are tweeting.

Yet the funny thing is that the way many people retweet posts makes them sound like “bots.” It’s not unusual for 20 people to retweet the same story without making a single change or adding anything new to the conversation. Granted, it may be an important story, but it can make you feel like you’re caught in an echo chamber, especially if you’re following a specific topic or hashtag on TweetDeck.

Now don’t get me wrong. Retweeting is an important function of Twitter, because it shows others that you think what they’ve said is interesting and worth sharing.

So the question is: What can you do to make your retweets more interesting and add to the conversation? Here are some thoughts:

Don’t just RT an article: Instead, click on the link and read the article to find out why it might interest your followers. The key is to ask yourself, “So what?” The goal is to make sure your tweet is something your followers will want to share with their friends.

Find a quote: Is there a sentence or phrase that speaks to you? Rather than just retweeting the post, attach the phrase to the link, because others may find this information interesting as well. Just be sure to RT the person who sent the original post, because they directed you to the story.

Have an opinion: After reading the article, ask yourself why the article is worth sharing? Does it bring up an issue that people should be concerned about? Don’t be shy—tell people what you think.

Pull a statistic: Sometimes articles contain important facts. Use this information to develop a tweet and attach it to the original link—and remember to RT the person who sent the original post.

Thank the sender: Rather than just forwarding the article, think about thanking the person who sent the original tweet or say why you think this article is worth sharing. This is an easy way to begin talking to others.

Summarize the article: It’s not uncommon for people to use an article’s headline for the basis of their tweet. Although headlines may be catchy, they don’t always give the big picture. Instead, think about summarizing the article and explaining why it’s important.

Attach a hashtag: A hashtag is any word on Twitter that is immediately preceded by the ‘#’ symbol (a.k.a. the hash). By attaching a hashtag to a tweet, you can help make sure that people interested in a specific topic find your tweet. It’s especially effective if someone is using TweetDeck, because they can create a column to follow hashtags that interest them.

Don’t forget to share the wealth. Think about recommending the folks you’ve retweeted during the week for #FollowFriday. This way people find other users who may share their interests.

Jenn Riggle is an associate vice president and social media leader of the Health Practice at CRT/tanaka. She regularly engages in social media, both on Twitter (@riggrl) and frequently blogs about social media and health care issues for The Buzz Bin.

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