A retweet has become the sincerest form of flattery; Let’s be honest, we all want more of them. And if you believe the mush served up by social media experts, there are a thousand ways to increase Twitter engagement, or whatever. Mush aside, there is no exact science of retweeting. Despite this, the folks at SimplyZesty attempt to pin down some common retweeting patterns in a just published survey that explores the often counter-intuitive retweet behavior, asking 135 people about their standard retweeting procedure via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
The results were surprising. A relatively high 29% of survey respondents had retweeted a link without actually looking at the contents of the link. Taken to its logical extreme, this carelessness in spreading and consuming information via Twitter is responsible for stuff like the Owen Van Natta/Plancast Rickroll, which resulted in an erroneous blog post regarding Van Natta’s resignation on The Next Web.
The reason people retweet? 36% of people surveyed said they tweeted to spread insight, which is not a surprise considering the plethora of aphorisms I see in my Twitter stream. Interesting blog posts came in a close second with 34%. The spread of breaking news, something which people tend to overhype on Twitter, is surprisingly third in retweet priority at 16%.
A hefty 37% of survey respondents retweet themselves/their own username, which is strange if you don’t take into account that they could be retweeting a relevant @reply or location-based information such as someone else’s Foursquare checkin that includes them.
Retweets also function as a vote of confidence and an endorsement of the person being retweeted, as 86% of those surveyed have followed somebody as a result of seeing their name in a retweet. This squares with the 56% percent of people who don’t get annoyed when they see a random retweet in their stream (23% don’t care entirely).
It seems like people are not paying that much attention when sending out retweets but giving them much creedence when consuming them. All in all, if you want to be retweeted you should say something that other people want to distribute, preferably something that makes them look more interesting or insightful for sharing. And target your retweeter with your text, don’t assume they’ll click on your link.
Image: Twitter Centipede