The master guide to retweet success

This powerful little action can gain you followers and influence, but only if you do it correctly.

On Twitter, a retweet can be a valuable way to share information with your network, build your following, and pay homage to the person you’re retweeting. Or, it can be spam and a vain attempt to draw attention to yourself. You decide.

Retweeting is beneficial

Retweeting aligns your name with the information you’re sharing, and shows your network who you think posts valuable information. It shows respect for the person who dug up that bit of news, said something brilliant, or is just spot-on about something.

For a brand, watching how a retweet spreads can help you identify influencers who can support your brand and its initiatives. If one tweet launches a thousand retweets, wouldn’t you want to know who the original tweeter was?

If people retweet your posts a lot, you’re probably building your social network pretty fast. People will see others retweeting you and want to find out more about you.

Not sure what to retweet?

The knee jerk response is to retweet anything that interests you and that you think would benefit your followers.

The goal is to share new information, though. Don’t be a “me too” retweeter. If there’s a three-day old Mashable post about iPhones, everybody has already seen it and will either think you’ve had your head in the sand or you’re trying to ride on the sinking wave of interest in an old news topic.

Basically, retweet breaking news. Retweet what nobody’s heard yet and what people will want to share.

How to get people to retweet you

If you want someone to retweet you, you need to post timely information your network will love. Mention if you are tweeting for a cause or something associated with a time. Also, say please. People are much more likely to retweet your news or call to action if you ask nicely, and not too often. If all of your posts say “Pls RT,” nobody will bother.

Here are six retweet best practices:

1. Use “via” or “RT”

You can use either one; it depends on what you like.

“RT: @Jfouts Whatever the message is” or “Whatever the message is via @Jfouts are both acceptable formats. This lets people know you’re quoting someone and did not come up with the thought on your own. It’s respectful to maintain the attribution of the original poster.

2. Mention the original poster

If @Jim retweeted a post he saw from @Judy, who retweeted @Jill’s original post, it would look something like this: “RT: @Judy @Jill something really brilliant.”

This can get out of hand quickly with multiple people, so it’s OK to just mention @Jill when you repost: “@Jill Something really brilliant.”

3. If you have to edit, be respectful of the original content

If you make hash out of someone’s message, trust me, he or she won’t appreciate it. Sure, you can try removing the vowels first—”ur twt cld lk prty slly”—but if that makes the message unintelligible, see what you can remove without distorting the original message.

If the tweet is still too hard to shorten you can send a power tweet through Twylah or a service like Twitlonger to post a longer than average link.

4. Check links

If you don’t check to see if the link works before you retweet it, you’re going to have egg on your face. Actually read the post too, to make sure it’s not a link to something you don’t want to support.

5. Don’t tweetjack

Never change a tweet to suit you and say it came from someone else. That’s called tweetjacking. If you want to add a comment but the tweet you are posting is too long, simply reply to the sender with your comment and follow it with a retweet of the original tweet. People will see both in context.

6. Be grateful

If someone retweets you, say thank you and/or continue the conversation. Don’t be lazy. If two people retweet you, thank each person separately. If 20 people retweet you, pat yourself on the back for a job well done and then say, “Wow, thanks all for the RTs!” #Awesome.

It’s also a good practice to go look at the profile of someone who retweets you. Do you want to follow her? Is there something in her recent tweets you can retweet or comment on? Reciprocity and sharing is the heart of Twitter communication.

Love to retweet? Check out how you score on retweetrank or Twitaholic.

Janet Fouts is a social media coach and senior partner at Tatu Digital Media. She blogs at JanetFouts.com, where a version of this article originally ran.

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