South Korean researchers fed the whole of Twitter into their computers during July 2009 and discovered some surprising insights about the way information spreads through the network. Re-tweets are far more powerful than originally thought, they argue, with a message that's re-tweeted only a few times likely to reach a vast number of people, regardless of the size of the original tweeter's follower base.
The re-tweet isn't just a way of recirculating other people's ideas -- it's a vital part of online community-building, writes Matt Rhodes. By letting people amplify and affirm the thoughts of others through re-tweets and other content-circulation tools, Rhodes says, the community will be strengthened.
Twitter posts that include the words "you," "Twitter" and "please" get re-tweeted most often, a study shows. Words such as "haha," "lol," "watching" and "going" tend to keep a tweet from being passed around. The study shows that idle chatter fails to gain traction on Twitter, while links coupled with requests to forward are most effective.
Twitter is planning to formally integrate re-tweets into its feature set. Instead of typing "RT" before the message, users will be able to click on a re-tweet button that sends the message out for them. Followers will also have the option of filtering out re-tweets to reduce the clutter. While users are pleased that Twitter is finally recognizing re-tweets, some are annoyed that the new feature will institute a new standard re-tweet formula.
The re-tweet is a valuable Twitter tool to spread your message far and wide, Chris Brogan writes. Among his tips on making posts easy to redistribute: Leave characters to allow a re-tweet, use URL clippers and provide a sense of where the link leads. "The more helpful or entertaining your tweet, the more likely people will take an action," he wrote.